Court upholds NYS gun licensing fee
The United States 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that New York’s gun permit fee does not violate the United States Constitution.
The New York State Rife and Pistol Association, along with a Second Amendment rights group and a handful of gun owners, filed the suit, arguing that NY’s permit law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Second Amendment by allowing New York City and Nassau County to charge a higher handgun licensing fee than other jurisdictions in New York State.
The New York Penal Law requires all lawful gun owners to obtain a license for the possession of a firearm. The relevant statute sets the license fee between $3 and $10, but also allows the New York City and Nassau County to set fees that falls outside of this range. At present, it costs a New York City gun owner $340 for a three-year possession. The plaintiffs argue that it is unfair, and thus unequal, to further a structure allowing New York City and Nassau County to charge higher gun license fees and that the fee itself is a burden on an individual’s right to own a gun.
A gun license fee is “permissible” under the Constitution, said U.S. Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes, writing for the court. New York’s licensing fee is merely a “marginal, incremental or even appreciable restraint” on an individual’s Second Amendment rights, the court continued, and as such, the court concluded the “licensing fee is constitutional.”
As to the Equal Protection challenge, the court reasoned that the licensing law permits but does not require New York City and Nassau County to charge a higher licensing fee. Further, the law mandates that the licensing fee cannot exceed “a sum reasonably necessary to cover the costs of the issuance, inspection and enforcement.” Each gun permit application requires an investigation into the applicant’s mental health and criminal history, at a cost that is defrayed by the licensing fees, the court noted. Therefore, the court concluded that the fee, which is paid every three years and used to cover administrative costs, survives Equal Protection.
“We are pleased that the Court has upheld New York City’s residential handgun license fee as an appropriate measure designed to defray administrative costs,” Susan Paulson, senior counsel, Appeals Division, NYC Law Department and the City’s lead attorney, said in a statement. “The Court properly recognized that an appropriate measure designed to defray administrative costs. The Court properly recognized that the City’s licensing process is designed to promote public safety and prevent gun violence.”
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