The Strange Inception of NYC’s Onerous Gun Laws

Over the past several months, at least four out-of-state concealed carry holders were arrested for carrying handguns in New York City.  Unbeknownst to these otherwise law-abiding gun owners, NYC has an extremely tough and unforgiving gun control laws. 

All of these tourists were caught when they naively sought to check their weapons with security (at an airport, at the Empire State Building, at the 9/11 memorial etc.). 

So, why is NYC so tough on guns?  Why do city officials lack commonsense when it comes to applying the law? 

Well, to answer these questions it might help to take a brief look at the genesis of NYC’s onerous gun laws. 

It all started with a corrupt politician and resident NYC gangster named ‘Big Tim’ Sullivan. ‘Big Feller’ as he was also known, held many public positions, including state assemblyman, congressman and state senator.  But he was also a Tammany Hall crook and criminal overseer of the gangs of New York.

In 1911, after a particularly bloody incident in Gramercy Park, Sullivan proposed the Sullivan Act, a law that would require police-issued licenses for New Yorkers to possess firearms small enough to be concealed. 

If one were to simply possess a handgun or other concealable firearm without a police-issued license, it was a misdemeanor.  If one were to carry a handgun, it was a felony. 

The Sullivan Act was passed into law, and this tough and arbitrary ‘may-issue’ policy is essentially how it still works in NYC today. 

While Sullivan’s pretext for proposing the law was to crackdown on crime, his real intent was to exact a tighter control over the city. 

By disarming ordinary citizens, his gangsters and underlings had an easier time carrying out nefarious activities.  No longer did they have to worry about their victims shooting back at them.  They could wreak havoc on innocents with impunity. 

So the result of the Sullivan Act wasn’t a reduction in crime and gang-related violence, it was quite the opposite.  Crime continued to grow and eventually reached a fever pitch after the passage of Prohibition in 1920. 

Fast forward to today, while crime is down across the country, guns are still readily available to NYC criminals who have always and will always flout gun control legislation like the Sullivan Act.  Meanwhile, the general public remains largely unarmed and defenseless.  

(Figures I found online suggest that only about 30,000 private (non-law enforcement) licenses exist out of almost 8 million residents.  Moreover, all but 8,000 of these licenses are held by retired law enforcement personnel).

But there may be good news after all.  The recent arrests of those tourists have state lawmakers rethinking the law and the way in which it’s indiscriminately applied. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told the NY Post he would hold committee hearings to examine enforcement of the law and recommend possible changes.

While this is a step in the right direction, NYC needs to start seriously rethinking its stance on concealed carry as there may come a time in the near future when the Supreme Court rules that self-defense outside the home is protected under the 2nd Amendment.  In which case they’ll be forced to change (as DC was in 2008 following the removal of the city’s handgun ban).

Better to just go ahead and get it over with now.  Come on Bloomberg, make NYC a ‘shall-issue’ city!

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