SAF sues NYC over ‘excessive’ permit fee
by Dave Workman
The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) on April 5 filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman alleging that the $340 permit fee to keep a handgun in one’s home inside New York City is “excessive and…impermissibly burdens the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”
Joining SAF in the lawsuit in support of seven individual plaintiffs is the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association (NYSRPA).
According to SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb, the issue is simple. New York state law provides for a fee not to exceed $10 for a state handgun license, but the city is exempted from that fee limit. As a result, he explained, citizens living inside the city are being charged 3000% more than citizens outside the city, to exercise a constitutionally-protected civil right.
Gottlieb said the fee is exorbitant and designed to discourage average New York City residents from keeping a handgun in their home for personal protection.
“The city’s ‘residence premises’ handgun license amounts to a charge of more than $100 annually to keep a handgun in one’s home, which is ridiculous,” Gottlieb asserted. “Mayor Bloomberg is essentially taxing the fundamental right to defend one’s self in his or her own home.”
The lawsuit asserts that charging the much higher fee inside the city than anywhere else in the state violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
In its lawsuit, SAF contends that the $340 fee is not used to defray administrative costs. The excessive fee, according to Gottlieb, puts the exercise of a constitutional right solely within the financial reach of the wealthy class, essentially turning a civil right into a privilege for the rich and well-connected. There also appears to be no provision in the law that earmarks where the fee revenues are to be spent. Gottlieb said that makes the city’s permit fee a “cash cow.”
In addition to the $340 charge for the premises permit, the city also charges $94.25 for fingerprinting and a background check. The lawsuit does not challenge that fee, but SAF says that doing simple math shows that this drives the cost of a permit to more than $400.
SAF and NYSRPA are represented in this case by New York attorney David Jensen.
“New York is one of only two states that require a permit just to keep a handgun in one’s own home,” Gottlieb said. “Citizens in the other 48 states would consider that an outrage.”
He said the only recourse is to take the issue to federal court.
“Billionaires like Mayor Bloomberg can be cavalier about a citizen’s rights, but we can’t, and we won’t,” he said.
When the New York Times tried to reach Bloomberg’s office for comment they were told only that lawyers were studying the suit. The Times said a spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office declined to comment.
The Times noted that the Bloomberg administration announced nearly a year agoafter the US Supreme Court ruled in McDonald vs. the City of Chicagothat it was moving to speed up and simplify the process for getting a gun permit, and reducing fees for permit renewals. However, the city had not effected any of those changes before the suit was filed.
More information on this and other gun rights suits by the Second Amendment Foundation and currently in litigation can be found on the organization’s website: saf.org.
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