If you ask a random person living in NYC how hard it is to get a gun license, they will probably tell you that if you want a license to carry a gun, you have to be a cop, work as a security guard, or “know someone” (i.e., be rich and have donated to the right politician or organization). The thing is, I couldn’t find anyone who didn’t fit into one of those categories who had actually tried, and in light of semi-recent Supreme Court rulings that the 2nd Amendment is an individual right, not limited to “militias,” I figured it was about time to put it to the test.
I gathered all the forms together, went down to “1 Police Plaza” — the NYPD headquarters in lower Manhattan, and was promptly told I could not apply because I didn’t have an ID card issued by the New York DMV. Apparently a Florida driver’s license, a social security card, and a U.S. passport were insufficient to prove who I am, even though all of those are sufficient to get the New York DMV to give me an ID card.
But, no problem. A New York ID lasting for 8 years turns out to be a $12 investment. My complete, “accepted” (as in, they were willing to consider it) application is pictured above: 1 three-page application, 1 letter of necessity, 1 letter explaining any checkboxes you may have checked that need explanation (Ever had a speeding ticket? That needs to be explained!), 1 letter from your roommate approving of your license or an affidavit that you have no roommate (My 2nd Amendment rights are contingent on my roommate’s permission?), 1 affidavit from someone willing to take possession of my guns if I die, 2 photos, 1 New York ID, 1 U.S. passport, 1 social security card, and $429.75. Oh, and a copy of my business tax return.
Business tax return? In order to apply to carry a firearm in New York City, you must provide a business reason. This seems likely to be ruled unconstitutional if challenged today in light of the new Supreme Court rulings, but I happen to run a business for which I have the necessity to get a gun license: I am a civil rights advocate, I need a license to exercise my civil rights, and thanks to your donations over the last 5+ years, I file a business tax return annually.
The application also asks a lot of extremely personal and seemingly irrelevant questions. Have you ever been fired from a job? Taken a sedative medication or pain killer (you’re checking yes if you’ve ever had surgery)? Testified before Congress? The NYPD wants to know. If your answer to any of the above is yes, add that to your explanation form next to your speeding ticket explanation. For all of these questions, I checked no box and explained on the form that I refuse to answer because they are irrelevant.
But, apparently that’s good enough to get the app in processing. After everything is paid for, fingerprints are taken (included in that $429.75 fee, which, by the way, is non-refundable if you are denied a license, and lasts for only 2 years assuming you do). A few days later (shockingly promptly), I get a letter from the officer assigned to examine my case:
The reply is a request for *25* more documents that the NYPD needs to complete my application. Some of the highlights include:
- 3 letters of recommendation, notarized and signed by people who know you for at least 5 years but are not family members
- The original court records for any of those speeding tickets you listed on your application
- A letter from your doctor describing your mental illness (funny, since I checked “no” on the “is a doctor treating you for a mental illness” box on the app)
- 6 months of bank withdrawal slips
- Pictures of your business, inside and out
- A whole lot of tax records
I’m really good at paperwork, so I compiled everything (or explained why I cannot, or will not, be getting them a particular document). The letter says that once I do that, I should call Police Officer Thomas Barberio.
So I called. And I called. And I called…
No less than 10 times on 7 different days. Officer Barberio is, it seems, never around. So I sent a fax. No reply.
For Part II of my journey, I head back to 1 Police Plaza to see if we can find Officer Barberio or his supervisor. Stay tuned.
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