In a recent decision, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York upheld portions of the New York City Administrative Code requiring New York City residents to pay a $340 fee to apply for a New York City “Premises Residence” handgun license, which allows the license holder to possess handguns within a specified dwelling. In the matter of Kwong v. Bloomberg, plaintiffs, a group of New York City handgun owners, challenged this fee on the grounds that it unconstitutionally burdened their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. The Court, however, upheld the fee because it was designed to defray the administrative costs of the licensing scheme and the amount was not so excessive such that it would likely deter an individual from exercising his or her Second Amendment rights. The Court further found that the fee passed muster when subjected to a means-end scrutiny, determining that it was substantially related to promoting substantial or important governmental objectives: public safety and the prevention of gun violence.
Plaintiffs further challenged that portion of the New York Penal Law which grants the City Counsel the discretion to set the application fee at a different rate than the $3-$10 rates applicable to applicants living outside of New York City. Plaintiffs argued that this law violated the Equal Protection Clause because it placed an unequal burden on the Second Amendment rights of New York City residents as compared with other citizens of New York State. The Court determined that the law does not prejudice a suspect classification, as city dwellers are not a suspect class, and further stated that the law itself only grants the City Council the discretion to set a higher rate, rather than mandating that it must. Furthermore, the Court noted that the Second Amendment rights of the applicants are not burdened, as they are protected by other New York law which ensures that the fees will be designed to defray the administrative costs of licensing, and will not be used for revenue purposes. Because the Court determined that there was a rational relationship between the disparity of treatment and a legitimate government purpose (defraying the costs of the licensing scheme), the Court determined that the statute was constitutional. It is unknown at this time whether the plaintiffs will appeal the decision.
For a copy of this decision, click here.