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Getting pulled over in New York when you have a weapon in the car

New York State is famous for its stringent laws in regards to purchasing, possessing and carrying firearms, but those of New York City and its surrounding suburbs are some of the strictest in the country.

Most of the gun laws are covered in two sections of New York Penal Law: Article 265 - Firearms and Other Dangerous Weapons; and Article 400 - Licensing and Other Provisions Relating to Firearms. Generally speaking, these laws ban the unlicensed possession of handguns while also offering regulations and exemptions, including individuals licensed to carry concealed handguns, or to possess them for other reasons, including sport, repair, or disposal.

The city requires gun owners who seek a concealed-weapon permit to prove that they are in need of special protection. Concealed-weapon permits from the rest of the state are not recognized in the city. If you have a gun permit issued elsewhere, you may transfer handguns through the city if these are in a lockbox in your trunk and you do not stop. Those with rifles or shotguns (also safely stored in the trunk) may stop for 24 hours.

New York City is a no-carry zone for handguns. As with the state, if it issues a regular gun permit it is for a specific handgun that will be listed on the permit. Rifles and shotguns must also be registered with the police. Residents with legal designated "premises only" permits are allowed to transfer handguns back and forth to the target range or use for hunting if the handgun is in a locked container in the trunk with no unnecessary stops. Handgun permits issued outside the metro area are not recognized by the city.

It's best to keep the above in mind if you do get pulled over for some reason with a weapon in your vehicle. If you do get pulled over, keep the following in mind:

  • Keep your hands on the steering wheel after rolling down your window and turning the lights inside the car on.
  • Calmly inform the officer that you are in possession of a weapon -- if you have a conceal weapon permit, inform them at this time. Either way, this immediately puts the officer on high alert. If you are legally transporting a firearm in the trunk, inform the officer as to the location of the weapon, but make no gesture of any kind that could be misconstrued.
  • Do not reach for your license until asked to do so. Offer the appropriate permits at the same time you present your drivers license.
  • If you are breaking the firearm laws in New York, its best to be helpful, answer the questions, but don't volunteer any information until they ask for it.

In 2006, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg famously announced the "Guns = Prison" slogan with a new mandatory three-and-a-half-year sentence for breaking the law. But according to a story in the New York Times in 2013 about half of those who are arrested end up with no jail time although conviction rates are rising.

While there is a very real possibility of jail time for illegal possession of a firearm, there is a variety ways to have the charges reduced or dismissed. A defense attorney with experience in the state's and city's weapons laws will likely be crucial to making sure you are part of the percentage of those who don't go to jail.

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