The Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation has filed its latest shot in its battle against exorbitant gun license fees in New York City, asking the court for a summary judgment against the city in a case that would have Washington residents marching on city hall or Olympia if it dealt with a gun law here.
Washington gun owners should pay attention because, one might argue, this is the kind of scenario they might face if Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn — a New York native — were ever to get his way and have the State Legislature change this state’s preemption statute, allowing Seattle to set its own gun laws.
New York City charges $340 every three years for what is called a “resident premises” handgun license. This allows people to have a handgun in their home. It’s not a carry permit. Currently, there are more than 335,000 active concealed pistol licenses in the Evergreen State, as this column recently reported.
New York City’s $340 fee for a 3-year “Residence Premises” handgun license far exceeds the fee charged by any other U.S. jurisdiction for comparable licensure.—SAF legal brief
SAF sued New York earlier this year in federal court, challenging the fee on several levels, not the least of which is the issue of equal protection. Here’s why:
Even within the State of New York, most other residents pay no more than $10 for a handgun license – but State law exempts residents of New York City from this protection, instead authorizing the City to impose fees without limit.—SAF legal brief
According to SAF, there is no reason for such a high fee, except to discourage New York City residents from exercising their constitutionally-protected individual civil right to keep and bear arms. This right was affirmed by SAF’s lawsuit against the handgun ban in Chicago last year, which incorporated Second Amendment protections to the states.
“A New York City resident who seeks to exercise his or her right to keep and bear arms by keeping a handgun at home must pay a total of $434.25 to obtain a license … indeed, the license fee itself exceeds the cost of many well-made handguns. A person who seeks to own a $300 handgun for 10 years is forced to pay the city of New York a total of $1,454.25 – that is, four times $340, plus $94.25 [fingerprinting costs] … which is almost five times the value of the gun itself.”—WorldNetDaily
SAF was joined in this lawsuit by the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association and several Big Apple residents. Their lawsuit revealed one outrageous detail that had been kept under wraps for years: The license fees do no defray costs of the licensing program at all, but are used to pad the police department’s pension fund.
It is this sort of scenario that Washington’s long-standing model preemption statute has prevented for more than a quarter-century. Former anti-gun Mayor Greg Nickels wanted to change the law so Seattle could establish its own gun regulations. His one attempt to challenge the law — the city’s ban on guns on city park property — was ruled illegal by a King County Superior Court judge. An appeal of that ruling is now before the State Court of Appeals, and a ruling could come later this summer, or early in the fall.
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