While New York State has strict laws for possessing firearms, the state is more lenient with rifle regulations than with handguns. Generally, a rifle does not require a permit. However, New York City's laws differ in that all firearms in the Big Apple must be registered and permitted, including long guns. While people use the term firearm to describe all guns, distinctions exist between a firearm and a rifle.
Purchasing a Rifle in the State of New York
While New York State requires a permit for a handgun, it does not require one for a rifle. According to New York General Business Law Section 396-ee, any person or entity selling a rifle cannot do so unless it comes with a gun locking device and a safe storage label. A firearms seller must also post a sign in bold print in a visible place in the store or place of business that states:
"The use of a locking device or safety lock is only one aspect of responsible firearm storage. For increased safety, firearms should be stored, unloaded and locked in a location that is both separate from their ammunition and inaccessible to children and any other unauthorized person."
While a person under 21 years of age cannot buy or possess a handgun in New York State, that is not the case for rifles – a person between over 16 years old can possess a rifle or shotgun. A person between 12 and 16 can possess a long gun if they engage in target shooting on a range under the supervision of a parent, guardian, military officer, certified instructor or someone over 18 designated with a hunter safety certificate, and approved by the parent or guardian in writing.
Rifle and Shotgun Possession in New York
Firearms must be licensed in New York. The state determines if a long gun is a firearm by the barrel length of a rifle or shotgun by measuring the distance from the muzzle to the bolt face, breach or breach lock when closed and cocked. It also measures the distance between both ends of a weapon along a parallel line to the bore's center line. The state defines firearms as:
- Any revolver or pistol.
- Shotgun with one or more barrels less than 18 inches in length.
- Rifle with one or more barrels less than 16 inches in length.
- Weapon created from a shotgun or rifle by modification or alteration or one with an overall length of at least 26 inches.
- Assault weapon.
There is no license requirement for possessing a rifle or shotgun if a rifle has a barrel at least 16 inches long. Shotgun barrels must be at least 18 inches long.
A person in New York State cannot possess firearms unless they:
- Are at least 21 years old (unless they have an honorable discharge from the U.S. military or New York national guard).
- Are of good moral character.
- Have no convictions for felonies or other serious offenses.
- Are not fugitives from justice.
- Are not unlawful users of, or addicted to, controlled substances.
- Are not illegally in the United States.
- Are a citizen of the United States.
- Have not been involuntarily committed to a mental health or secure treatment facility.
- Have not had a gun license revoked.
- Have not had a guardian appointed to them as a result of incapacity, condition or disease, mental capacity, or mental illness and subnormal intelligence.
- Can manage their own affairs.
- Present no cause for a license denial.
Criminal Record and Possession of a Rifle
An individual convicted of a felony or another serious offense cannot possess a rifle or shotgun in New York State. These offenses may include:
- Illegally carrying, possessing or using a handgun or other dangerous weapon.
- Making or possessing instruments for burglary.
- Buying or receiving stolen property.
- Unlawfully entering a building.
- Helping someone escape from prison.
- Disorderly conduct.
- Drug offenses.
- Sodomy or rape crimes.
- Child endangerment.
- Permitting or promoting prostitution.
- Crimes committed against members of the same family or residence, including assault, harassment, trespassing, menacing and strangulation.
New York State prohibits someone from possessing a rifle or shotgun if they have a domestic violence protection order against them. Also, they cannot own a long gun if they are mentally incompetent.
Carrying a Gun in New York State
New York State prohibits a person from carrying loaded firearms, including short-barreled rifles, shotguns or assault weapons outside of their residence or business. The state defines a loaded firearm as any owned by an individual who also possesses the ammunition for the firearm. It is also illegal to transport a loaded rifle in a motor vehicle, but there are some exceptions for hunting.
It is illegal to carry any firearms or long guns on the grounds or in the buildings of all schools. However, gun owners can carry them in forest areas owned by the New York State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry without written permission.
Defining Antique Firearms in New York
Antique firearms are not part of New York State's current firearm definition. The state defines these as any unloaded, muzzle-loading gun with an ignition system of flintlock, matchlock, percussion cap, or one using fixed cartridges that are longer available. The state does not require a license to collect, carry or possess an unloaded antique firearm.
Antique Pistol Licenses
Antique pistols do require a license if they do not also fall under the definition of a firearm. A person can buy and possess antique rifles, shotguns, handguns and replicas without a permit. They must not have the materials required for an antique handgun's loading to fall within the state's firearm exemption.
Gun Laws in New York City
New York City has different gun control rules from those of New York State when it comes to the ownership of a rifle or shotgun. Attaining a long gun license in the the city is similar to the process one would take when licensing a handgun – owners must file their application through the New York Police Department. The City of New York requires rifle owners to be:
- At least 21 years old.
- A resident of the city (with proof of residence).
- A legal U.S. resident.
- Vetted via a background check by a licensed firearms dealer.
A person living in New York City who possesses a rifle or shotgun and no longer wishes to keep it must dispose of it only through:
- A licensed gun dealer.
- An individual who already holds a valid license or permit for a rifle or shotgun.
- A military member, police officer, peace officer or nonresident of New York City who has proof of their exemption status.
Purchasing a Rifle as a Nonresident of NYC
A person who is a nonresident of New York City can buy a rifle or shotgun from a licensed dealer in the city if they can swear in writing that they would be eligible for a license if they were a resident. They also must state that they can buy a rifle or shotgun in their area and that they can document their residency in a jurisdiction other than New York City.
A person who is a nonresident must remove the long gun they bought in New York City within 24 hours. If necessary, the dealer they purchased it from has the authorization to deliver the long gun to a terminal or to a railroad representative, airline or shipping company to transport the weapon.
Registering a Firearm in New York City
A resident of New York City must have their rifle or shotgun sale registered with the city's Firearms Control Section. The city also requires the dealer who makes the sale to register it. It requires the person who holds the permit for a firearm to register their new weapon within 72 hours of bringing it into the city after purchasing it from an outside dealer.
Antique rifles and shotguns are exempt from registration and permitting if they do not fire or discharge, do not fire fixed ammunition or were manufactured before 1894. Replicas that do not have commercially available ammunition are also exempt.
Obtaining a Certificate of Registration
The Firearms Control Section issues the certificate of registration to a new gun owner. When a sale occurs between two entities, both must register the transfer of weapon. When disposing of a long gun through a sale, there must be a record of the sale on Firearms Control Section forms.
The original form goes to the Firearms Control Section within 72 hours of the new owner's acquisition. The seller and buyer both retain a copy and must have their registration certificates amended to show the long gun's transfer between them.
Carrying Long Guns in New York City
In New York City, it is illegal for an individual to carry a long gun on their person or in their motor vehicle without a certificate of registration or permit. When they carry a long gun in a vehicle, it must not have ammunition in it, nor can ammunition be readily accessible. However, they can store the gun in the trunk of their car without a case.
It is illegal to carry or otherwise possess a loaded long gun in public. A person carrying an unloaded gun in public must enclose it in a nontransparent case.
New York Law on the Safe Storage of Firearms
According to the New York SAFE Act (New York Penal Law Section 265.45), the owner or custodian of a gun must store it in their residence in a locked container or safe storage depository, which no one can unlock without a key, combination lock or trigger lock, if they:
- Live with someone under 16.
- Know or have reason to know that a minor will likely gain access to the gun.
- Know or have reason to know that the person they live with cannot possess a gun due to a protection or protective order, a felony conviction, a mental health commitment or adjudication or a serious misdemeanor conviction.
Local laws that carry additional storage requirements supersede SAFE Act requirements.
A person who violates the state's safe storage requirements faces a year in prison, a $1,000 fine and three years' probation. Even if the gun owner does not live with a minor, they still face a violation charge and a $250 fine if the child is visiting a home with an unsecured gun. State law requires a person who owns a firearm and ammunition and loses it through theft or in another manner to report everything they know to their local police department or sheriff's office within 24 hours of its disappearance.
- Democrat and Chronicle: New York Safe Storage Law: What It Means for Gun Owners Living With Children
- Find Law: New York Consolidated Laws Penal Law Section 265.45 Safe Storage of Rifles, Shotguns and Firearms
- NRA: New York City Profile
- NRA: New York Gun Laws
- Find Law: New York Consolidated Laws General Business Law Section 396-ee Sale of Certain Weapons; Locking Devices
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.