Say it ain’t so!
In fact, it could come to pass- and the idea of CCW reciprocity has created some strange bedfellows in New York’s legislature.
Democrat Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is forming a committee to explore easing New York’s license law to accomodate visitors from other states with legal handguns (being a lifelong New Yorker, I honestly believed I would never write that sentence). Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua) strongly supports the measure as well.
The new discussion of interstate reciprocity comes after the arrest of two non-residents for handgun possession in recent weeks. Californian Mark Meckler and Tennesseean Meredith Graves- both of whom have valid concealed carry permits in their home states- brought handguns to New York City. In Graves’ case, she was arrested when she asked a police officer where she could secure her pistol, after seeing a “no firearms” sign at Ground Zero.
Before going further, I want to point something out: I find it hard to believe that people sufficiently in-tune with gun laws to have CCW permits, weren’t aware that New York is “off-limits” to out-of-state gun owners. This is especially true of Meckler, who is the co-founder of Tea Party Patriots.
That being said, though, these two cases illustrate the need to make substantial changes in New York’s gun laws.
In addition to the political challenges of changing New York’s century-old Sullivan Act, there are legal quirks involved in reciprocity as well.
New York mandates the registration of handguns. If the legislature decides to extend reciprocity only to residents of states which also mandate registration of handguns, then residents of only a few states would be able to enjoy the right to carry in NY.
The registration requirement is already problematic for New York residents: Family members cannot loan handguns amongst themselves, because only the registered owner may possess the handgun. As a matter of custom, married couples are permitted to ‘cross-register’ handguns to both spouses’ licenses- however, this practice is not allowed in some counties, barring married couples from sharing handguns with each other.
Additionally, Upstate New Yorkers currently cannot carry handguns in New York City, unless their pistol permit is “validated” by the NYPD (a rare occurrence). In fact, many upstate New Yorkers can’t carry at all, except while engaged in certain activities (such as hunting and target shooting), due to restrictions placed on their license by the issuing authority.
If out-of-state residents are authorized unlimited carry throughout the state, including in New York City, and are exempted from New York’s registration requirement, but New York residents aren’t, this could further fuel the “Brain Drain”- the term describing the fact that nearly a million disgruntled Upstaters have already left the state to live elsewhere in the last 20 years.
There’s another angle to consider as well: New York’s license law is dying. Several lawsuits in the past few years have successfully limited portions of gun laws in New York; and Alan Gura, the lawyer who successfully argued Heller and McDonald before the U.S. Supreme Court, is suing both New York City and Westchester County over parts of the pistol permit law. Sheldon Silver’s committee may attract Democrats who desire to loosen NY’s handgun laws just enough to pass the barest SCOTUS muster, to avoid being embarassed by a major court decision overturning most of the Sullivan Act.
Democrats have something else to worry about, too: Moderate Dems and independents who, while not necessarily in favor of more permissive gun laws, may take issue with the felony arrest of people attempting to obey the law, and the excesses of New York’s licensing scheme. For example, privacy advocates were alarmed in May when New York State Police released the entire list of names and addresses of pistol permit holders– about half a million people– for distribution on the internet.
More on this story as it develops.