Who can actually get a gun in New York City?

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
Erica Sherman/Brooklyn BP's Office
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

Who can actually get a gun in New York City?

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said he would carry a gun as mayor.
February 7, 2020

Last week, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams told FAQ NYC podcast that he would carry a gun and reject his security detail if he were elected mayor of New York City. This statement is not entirely surprising, given the retired New York City Police Department officer’s pro-gun stances, including stating in 2018 that he carries a gun in church.

“Yes I will, number one,” said Adams when asked if he would carry a gun as mayor. “And number two, I won’t have a security detail. If the city is safe, the mayor shouldn’t have a security detail with him. He should be walking the street by himself.” 

Under federal law, qualified retired officers like Adams are allowed to carry a concealed firearm. 

Adams is not the only elected official with a New York gun permit, as the NYPD issues concealed-carry licenses in special cases unrelated to business. Although the state has among the strictest gun control laws, according to the Giffords Law Center, numerous New York billionaires and celebrities reportedly hold a concealed-carry license from the NYPD, including Robert De Niro, Howard Stern and President Donald Trump. The president acknowledged this during a 2012 interview with the The Washington Times, but has refused to comment on the matter since taking office. According to The New York Times, Trump allegedly received his license in exchange for a favor – making donations to two charities related to the department – without completing the required paperwork. 

Here’s what it takes to obtain an NYPD gun permit, according to the department.

How do you get an NYPD Gun License? 

Since 2018, the NYPD only accepts online applications for handgun licenses, rifle/shotgun permits and renewals. The process includes registering a profile, submitting fingerprints and required documents, and paying the application and fingerprint fees. Once an application has been received and reviewed, the NYPD schedules an in-person interview. Within six months, the applicant will receive a letter stating whether the application was approved. 

Who can carry a gun in New York City? 

General requirements for carrying a handgun are that the permit holder is at least 21 years of age, of good moral character, and in a safe mental and physical condition to operate a firearm. Before issuing a gun license, the NYPD conducts a background check that includes a close review of the applicant’s medical and legal history, such as reports of arrests, summonses and domestic violence.

Applicants for a carry or premise license must also submit a letter of necessity. No training is required to obtain a gun permit, and the same application process applies to residents, part-time residents and people employed in New York City. Retired law enforcement officers are eligible to apply for a license, and those who were employed in New York City are even waived the handgun license application fee. Similarly, security guards can obtain a permit with appropriate documentation from their employer. 

What types of licenses does the NYPD issue?

The NYPD issues five types of licenses, each for a term of three years. Not all permits allow for unrestricted concealed carrying. Licenses are issued for use in a residence or at a business and specify whether the licensee can carry it or use it in a specific location. Premise licenses are restricted to the address indicated on the permit, and licensees may transport their firearm and ammunition to an authorized range, shooting competition, hunting location and another approved location. To carry a concealed firearm, an applicant must obtain a carry business license, which is valid for a specific person, business, occupation or address. In special circumstances, the license can be issued for safety unrelated to business. The limited carry business permit is restricted to certain conditions and must otherwise be unloaded and stored away. A special license requires the permit holder to possess a valid carry country card. The NYPD issues carry guard licenses to security guards, which permits the carrying of a handgun only while actively engaged in employment or on transit to and from the place of employment. Retired officers can obtain a law enforcement retiree license. 

So can anyone who’s not an NYPD officer or retired NYPD officer get a license? Like current Mayor Bill de Blasio? 

The NYPD may issue a carry business license for safety reasons. According to the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, anyone who completes an application, satisfies the NYPD’s general requirements, as stated above, and passes the background check is eligible for obtaining a New York gun permit. This applies to anyone, and thus, with a letter of necessity, a public figure can obtain an NYPD firearm license. Should he want one, current Mayor Bill de Blasio could be granted a concealed-carry license, regardless of whether or not the mayor dismisses his security detail. 

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly suggested that President Donald Trump, Howard Stern and Robert De Niro were billionaires. 

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Amina Frassl
is an editorial intern at City & State.