Are Pistols Illegal In New York?

are pistols illegal in new york

Guns are a great possession for a lot of people, they offer a sense of security, are good for hunting as a hobby and they even look great on the wall. But depending on which state you live in you will be subject to different gun laws. Whist owning your gun in Georgia may be legal if you move to New York it may now be illegal.

That is because compared to the rest of the US, New York has rather strict laws on guns. So, before you get your heart set on a certain gun, or even look at moving to the state, it is best to know the laws and requirements on a particular gun.

Here we will examine the distribution, handling, sale, and possession of pistols in New York. 

Are Pistols Illegal In New York?

The number one thing to consider is: are pistols illegal or legal in New York? Whereas most guns can be legally owned without a license in the state of New York, the pistol is one of the few guns that are illegal to own, carry, or fire without a license. 

That is not to say that it is actually illegal. You just simply need to apply for a license. Additionally, the City of New York actually has its own set of restrictions on pistols that differ from those of the state of New York. So, it depends on where in the state you are talking about. 

Why Do I Need A License To Own A Pistol?

The reason why a pistol requires a license in New York when many other guns do not is that it can be classed as an assault weapon. The idea is that requiring people to obtain a license for a pistol actually acts as a safety measure.

These licensing laws apply to all handguns and assault weapons. However, there are exemptions to this law which are outlined in § 265.20 in the penal code of New York. 

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How Do I Obtain A Pistol License?

Obtaining a license to carry a pistol in New York is incredibly difficult. Not only this but if you are able to get the license it takes a very long time – anywhere from six to nine months. 

In order to apply for the license, you must prove a legitimate reason why you would need to carry a pistol outside of your own home. You must also then link this reason to a business. 

Even with all of these reasons initial applications for a pistol license are normally rejected. This means that you will then need to appeal the decision to have any hope of getting the license. This process can be particularly taxing and so it is highly recommended that you consult with an attorney to help with the procedures.

What is a ‘legitimate reason’ to need a pistol license?

There are three main reasons why someone would need to carry a pistol outside of their own home. These are typically the only acceptable reasons when the license is being considered. They are:

1. You carry a lot of cash, jewelry, or other physical valuables on your person as a part of your job. You must also be able to prove the existence (and legitimacy) of these valuables to the police. If the NYPD is not satisfied with the number of valuables, their value, or the amount of danger that you put yourself in then your license is likely to be rejected.

2. If you have received a credible death threat (again this will be assessed by the New York Police Department) then you have a legitimate reason to want and need to carry a pistol in the streets. However, as this is not a concrete reason, but rather is subjective and dependent almost entirely on the assessing police offer, different applications, for this reason, may have different outcomes.

3. If you are a celebrity. Again this reason has to do with the amount of danger that you are perceived to be in when you are out walking on the streets. This is also a subjective reason and so the outcome of the decision will be completely determined by the mindset of the attending police officer. 

If you already have a license from another state to carry a pistol this is not seen as a valid reason. If you bring the pistol into the state of New York (even with your out-of-state license) then it will be seen as illegal in the eyes of the law. 

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How Old Do I Have To Be To Own A Pistol?

If you qualify for a pistol license according to the above criteria then you must still be at least 21 years of age. The only exception to this law is if you are an ex-military member who was honorably discharged. You must also not have any mental disorders and be judged to be of “good moral character”. 

How Much Does A Pistol License Cost?

The application fee at the time of writing is $340 which is non-refundable, even if your application is rejected. 


New York’s strict gun laws are particularly harsh when it comes to pistols, handguns and other assault weapons. These measures were first introduced in order to tackle the state’s violence issues, which had unfortunately become known worldwide. 

Even if you have a registered and license pistol from another state, if you do not obtain the proper paperwork in New York then it will become an illegal possession. This can land you in a lot of trouble so it is best to check beforehand. 

So, although pistols are not actually illegal in New York they are incredibly hard to possess legally. There is no concrete or exact data on the number of licenses issued for pistols in New York, but the number is estimated to be in the region of 4000 people. 

If you believe that you qualify for a pistol license it is advised to enlist the help of a lawyer due to the difficulty of the process.