New York pistol permit holders face recertification log jam

Many of the nearly 2 million pistol-permit holders in New York will have to get new five-year permits in 2017 but the State Police still hasn’t said how that will happen.

To own a modern pistol or revolver in the Empire State requires a permit issued through the local county clerk’s office. Since Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 — commonly known as the NY SAFE Act — licenses issued since then have a five-year expiration date.

However, part of the SAFE Act required all licenses to be recertified by the State Police every five years thereafter, meaning the myriad of lifetime pistol permits issued prior to 2013 are set to expire Jan. 31, 2018.

Nevertheless, county clerks in the state argue the State Police hasn’t told them how they are going to implement this program, and a promised website to utilize for the recertification doesn’t exist yet.

“I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like. The phones are going to be ringing off the hook. I can see it being a nightmare,” said Niagara County Clerk Joseph Jastrzemski, who has some 32,000 permit holders in his rural county.

Jastrzemski says a meeting between county clerks and the State Police in September left more questions than answers.

Yates County Clerk Lois Hall also attended the conference and told The Leader that she didn’t know when the website would go live or even how those with an expiring permit would be contacted.

“What we do know at this time is the State Police will be launching a web site where pistol permit licensees can be recertified either online or by downloading the paper form,” said Hall. “There is no scheduled launch date for this web site. Only the due date of Jan. 31, 2018, for all licenses issued prior to January of 2013 is determined.”

The State Police have been trying to establish a new database for the past several years with mixed results.

In 2013, a pilot of the recertification process was trialed in seven counties then was put on hold the next year without explanation.

In 2015, three counties, Albany, Schenectady and Fulton, were enrolled in a smaller program in which 500 permit holders were contacted with an offer to voluntarily renew their license early in an effort to establish best practices and avoid a backlog.

Now, pushing two years since the latest trial, Albany County Clerk Bruce A. Hidley simply notes on his website that, “The State Police will be responsible for this new recertification process, and they have not yet informed County Clerks how they are going to implement this program, but by January 2018 all current lifetime pistol permits will be replaced by 5-year recertified permits everywhere in New York State.”

As for the State Police, they have issued a statement that contends, “We have been communicating our progress to the county clerks, and we will provide the clerks and permit holders with specifics once the process is finalized. We will ensure that those permit holders who must recertify by Jan. 31, 2018 will have a clear and easy path to do so.”

The recertification process is not the first SAFE Act goal that New York has had problems turning into practice. A facet that mandated background checks for ammunition sales in the Empire State has been put on hold until a planned sales database could be perfected.