Buying Guns and Ammo in New York

DISCLAIMER: It is your full responsibility to make sure the firearm, ammunition, or accessories you are purchasing is legal for you to own in your state or jurisdiction. The information contained throughout this web site, including the firearm and ammunition state guide provided below, is not legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.

The state of New York is arguably the least firearms-friendly state in the United States of America. On the state level, there are bans on so-called assault weapons, magazine restrictions, major hurdles to the purchasing of ammunition, and so on.

The legal story does not end at the state level, however: localities, such as New York City, can and do impose laws of their own, further restricting concealed carry and gun ownership within certain parts of the state.

Because New York City is the most densely populated part of the state, this piece focuses largely on state law, but also takes into account the local laws in the Big Apple. While this piece is not intended as legal advice, it might well be useful to those hoping to get a general sense of the state of firearms laws within New York.

There are two major pieces of state-level legislation that form the basis of New York firearms and ammunition law: Article 265 of the Penal Laws regulates types of firearms and where they can be possessed, and Article 400 regulates possession and carrying, as well as regulating ammunition sales within the state. But, those two laws are only the beginning of the regulations on Second Amendment rights within New York.

Ammo Laws/Buying Ammo in New York 

First, we will cover the ammo laws of the state. The important things to cover:

Buying ammunition in New York is likely the most difficult ammunition buying process to be found in the United States. Current state law mandates that all ammunition sales have to be done in-person at an FFL, and the state Attorney General has made it clear that her office intends to prosecute any and all illegal online ammunition sales to the fullest extent of the law. Thus, any ammunition you intend to ship into the state must be going to an FFL, who can carry out the transfer process.

The state outlines its current process: each ammunition sale involves a background check and a fee, and once the transaction is completed, the type and number of rounds purchased, along with the identity of the buyer, is kept in a database by the state.

The state SAFE act also bans any and all magazines of a capacity of over ten rounds, requiring existing holders of said magazines to destroy them, convert them to lower capacities, or give them to state or local law enforcement, and throws in a ban on armor-piercing ammunition as well. The same law makes it illegal to fail to report stolen firearms or ammunition and imposes fines on those who do not do so.

In effect, the only way to buy ammunition in the state is to do so at or through an FFL, and that FFL is compelled to send a detailed record to the state. As part of the transaction, a background check will be completed and a fee collected. The state, then, maintains a registry of ammunition and its owners. These are the most restrictive ammunition laws in the country.

Gun Laws/Buying Guns in New York 

Next, we will do the same analysis for New York’s gun laws. Buying a firearm in the state is a similar paperwork-laden process to buying ammunition within the state. There are some firearms and accessories that are simply forbidden in the state. For instance, most NFA items such as machine guns and suppressors are forbidden in Article 265 of the penal code. Additionally, the SAFE Act defines an assault weapon by a set of mostly cosmetic characteristics, before specifically naming most common semi automatic rifles as banned.

To be able to purchase either a rifle or pistol in the state, the purchaser first has to apply to the state and fill out a form that requires much of the same information as form 4473, with the addition of a photograph, a list of the handguns you already own, and a $20 fee. This process is carried out by the state police and will take an indeterminate amount of time: it must also be renewed every three years with an additional fee. Assuming you already live in the state and own what is now considered an “assault” weapon that was grandfathered in, you’ll have to register it, and then re-register it through a similar process every few years: each of these registrations also gives the state police an opportunity to deny the application, beginning a lengthy appeal process.

With the permission to purchase a firearm in hand, you can then head to the gun store, purchase a firearm the state has approved you for, and fill out Form 4473. But, the state will do its own background check, which, according to local journalists, might take up to a month. It may well take the average person several months to successfully purchase a legal firearm in the state of New York. The state also requires background checks for private party sales, though they do cap the fees that FFL can charge for such transfers.

Once the firearm is in the owner’s possession, there are additional regulations on how it must be stored in the home: most guns have to be locked with a cable lock, and FFLs are compelled to give one out with each firearm purchased. While this whole process might seem like an unusual amount of work, it is just the beginning for folks who plan to concealed carry in the state.

In New York, localities handle the issuing of concealed carry permits, which are shall-issue. This usually means that the state more or less has to give anyone who is not an otherwise prohibited person a permit, as long as they fill out the paperwork and pass the background check. Things are a little different in NY, however.

For example, a New York City application for a concealed carry permit requires two separate checks for a total of more than $400.00, up to ten documents including where you have lived and worked for five years (and with whom), your original social security card, and, if you plan to carry at work, a letter asking the city to allow you to carry at work. There is then an in-person interview in which the police will look through your tax returns and bank statements, and will ask you about any traumatic experiences you may have had. This application will then be processed for an indeterminate period of time and can be rejected if the officers handling the case do not think you are of “good moral character.”

The state form for the same, which we linked above (it is the same form for purchasing a pistol, with additional sections for concealed carry) even asks for social media account information. It is the most personally invasive and information-intensive licensing process in the country.

In summary, should someone want to purchase and concealed carry a handgun in New York, the overall process will likely take several months. Along the way, the state will also register and keep a database of the ammunition and firearms purchased, and will enter into official state records a large amount of personal and financial information, all of which can be used to deny sales or permits.

Sales Tax on Guns/Ammo in New York 

There is a general state sales tax rate of 4% in New York, though localities impose their own taxes, sometimes up to a total of just under 9%.  At the moment there are no excise taxes on firearms and ammo purchases themselves, though there is a bill working through the state legislature that might impose one in the future

More Resources

NY Gun Forum is an active online community that has excellent, local knowledge of firearms laws, as well as friendly vendor recommendations and a place to talk to one another about the finer details of trying to follow NY gun laws’ frequent changes.

New York Gun Law FAQ:

In a word: no. While it was an early site of gun manufacturing in the USA, even companies like Savage, which opened its factory in Utica, NY, in 1894, have moved out of the state, citing the hostile legal environment. 

Yes. Although, to do so requires that the person gets state authorization to buy the handgun, and then an additional and fairly expensive concealed carry permit that will take months to get. Additionally, NY’s concealed carry permits, issued at the local level, tend to face exceptions as far as reciprocity is concerned. 

New York not only has gun registration, but it also has distinct registries for handguns, shotguns, and rifles, in addition to “assault weapons”, and even registers ammunition to purchasers. 

Because of the waiting times to get the authorization to purchase firearms, and the time that the state takes to do its own background checks, there is a practical waiting period in the state that can last over a month from when a person decides to buy a firearm.

This is explicitly illegal under current New York gun laws, so the only way to get ammo in the state is to buy it at an FFL, in person.