May 7, 2024 – On September 13, 2023, the New York State Firearms Association (“NYSFA”), a nonprofit that advocates for Second Amendment rights, and three individuals (including one state senator and one state assemblyman) filed a lawsuit in federal court against the superintendent of New York State Police challenging the validity of New York’s recent laws requiring a background check for ammunition purchases and imposing a fee associated therewith. The lawsuit is entitled NYSFA v. Nigrelli, No. 6:23-cv-6524, and is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York. In the complaint, plaintiffs asked for an injunction barring enforcement of these laws.

The laws challenged in NYSFA’s lawsuit are (1) N.Y. Penal Law § 400.02, which requires the establishment of “a statewide license and record database specific for ammunition sales”; (2) N.Y. Penal Law § 400.03, which, upon establishment of that database, prohibits a firearms or ammunition dealer or seller from transferring ammunition to a non-dealer/seller without (a) providing information to the database about the sale (including the “transferee’s identification document .. . as well as the amount, caliber, manufacturer’s name and serial number, if any, of such ammunition,” (b) receiving a unique identification number from the database, and (c) confirming the transferee’s identification through examination of a valid identification document; and (3) N.Y. Executive Law § 228, which incorporates the database set forth in N.Y. Penal Law §§ 400.02 and 400.03 and requires that dealers or sellers who request an ammunition sale background check pay a fee. Those laws were enacted on July 1, 2022, as part of New York’s Concealed Carry Improvement Act. The background checks on ammunition went into effect on September 13, 2023.

On September 15, 2023, as part of the lawsuit, plaintiffs filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, asking the court to preliminarily enjoin the database and background check requirements set forth in the laws.  On May 2, 2024, U.S. District Judge Frank Geraci, Jr. issued a decision and order that denied the request for a preliminary injunction, allowing the laws to remain in effect.  While the court found plaintiffs had standing for their lawsuit and that the conduct regulated by the challenged laws was activity protected by the Second Amendment, the court held that “the historical tradition for background checks prior to purchasing a firearm or ammunition is clearly established.” This ended plaintiffs’ “facial” challenge to the laws, but the court also addressed plaintiffs’ claims that the laws, as applied, were creating an infringement of their Second Amendment rights. However, the court also rejected these concerns that the background checks were “never ending” and subject to database malfunctions. The court noted that a background check under the federal system is required for separate firearm purchases, which is directly analogous to the system in New York for ammunition sales. New York also submitted evidence that delays were rare, and that 29,037 ammunition related checks were approved out of 29,464 submitted requests from September 13 to October 9 of 2023. However, the court’s interpretation of this data that these approvals were “instantaneous” is nowhere to be found in New York’s evidence. The court also found the fees associated with the laws are not invalid as they go to support the maintenance of the background check system.

Renzulli Law Firm will continue to monitor court challenges of new firearms laws in New York and around the country. If you have any questions about the laws or legal challenges, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.