The Facts About New York’s Ammunition Law
November 2nd, 2022
6 minute read
I was born in 1966 and grew up in the Mississippi Delta. When I was a kid I bought most of my ammo at Magic Mart, a now-defunct chain department store once common across the Deep South. I just dropped by after school to pick up .22 shells as the need arose. The old guy behind the counter would drag out a spiral-bound notebook and dutifully log the type of rounds and quantity I was purchasing along with the identifying information from my driver’s license. The process was tedious, but our interactions were always cordial.
I recall once asking him what was done with that information. He said nothing. He wrote it all down because that was the law, but nobody ever looked at it.
Now just imagine how many times that exchange took place every day in America. Logging ammo sales began with the Gun Control Act of 1968 and, in most places, ended with the curiously titled Firearms Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA) of 1986. Here’s the 1968 verbiage, “It shall be unlawful for any licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, licensed dealer, or licensed collector to sell or deliver…any firearm or ammunition to any person unless the licensee notes in his records…the name, age, and place of residence of such person…”
Untold billions of transactions were dutifully logged from sea to shining sea. Countless innocent trees gave their lives. Thousands of aggregate man hours were expended, and for what? While the FOPA did indeed streamline the sale of ammunition, it also outlawed the further manufacture of select-fire firearms for sale to civilians. That is a tale for another day. However, in the lead-up to the FOPA, I read that there had not been a single documented crime solved as a result of all those ammo records. Not one. Now fast forward 38 years to the Empire State, and history seems to be repeating itself.
Comparing gun ownership in my native Mississippi against that of New York is like contrasting two entirely different planets. As a free man in a free state I find it all kind of tough to comprehend. We should all fall under the same U.S. Constitution, yet my brethren in New York just don’t perceive the words the same way we do down here.
Mine is a constitutional carry state. Fully half the states in the Union now allow some form of permitless concealed carry of a firearm for personal protection. By contrast, up until recently it was essentially impossible to obtain a concealed carry permit in New York unless you were independently wealthy or politically connected. All that should have changed with the recent NY State Rifle and Pistol Association Supreme Court Ruling. Only it didn’t.
In response to the landmark SCOTUS ruling, the New York legislature went into special session and passed an emergency bill specifically intended to drastically limit the freedoms implicit in the new SCOTUS ruling. While New York must indeed now issue concealed carry licenses more liberally, the hurdles one must clear to obtain such a license are yet more draconian.
In addition, per the new legislation, most everywhere in New York is considered a prohibited place where concealed carry is still not allowed. Specifically, private businesses must specifically post that concealed carry is allowed, otherwise it is presumptively illegal. It’s all honestly fairly sad. Amidst all the new whirlwind gun restrictions, the New York state government also now demands a background check on all ammunition sales. Records of these transactions must also be maintained by the state. Here we go again.
Do You Need a Permit to Buy Ammunition in NY?
Yes. The state of New York requires a license for ammo sales.
Here are the high points of the “Ammunition Records Requirement” — “There shall be a statewide license and record database specific for ammunition sales which shall be created and maintained by the division of state police…the licensee or seller contacts the statewide license and record database and provides the database with information sufficient to identify such…transferee…as well as the amount, caliber, manufacturer’s name and serial number, if any, of such ammunition…
“Any seller of ammunition or dealer in firearms shall keep…an electronic record…In the record [book] shall be entered at the time of every transaction involving ammunition the date, name, age, occupation and residence of any person from whom ammunition is received or to whom ammunition is delivered, and the amount, calibre (sic), manufacturer’s name and serial number…
“If the superintendent of state police certifies that background checks of ammunition purchasers may be conducted through the national instant criminal background check system…use of that system by a dealer or seller shall be sufficient…provided that a record of such transaction shall be forwarded to the state police in a form determined by the superintendent.”
Legalese is by its nature obfuscating. However, as near as I can tell from researching a wide variety of sources, to my reading it’s illegal in New York to possess ammunition unless it fits a specific weapon registered to you. Under the new law purchasers of ammunition must undergo a background check essentially identical to that required to purchase a firearm. Each and every ammunition purchase must also be dutifully logged and reported to the state. State agencies will then maintain a centralized database of ammunition along with to whom it was sold.
Considering that ammunition is by definition consumable, it’s curious to imagine what this database will look like a decade from now. Fairly cumbersome would be my guess, but I doubt the New York state legislators gave that much thought. By contrast, down here in Mississippi when I run short I order ammo by the case online and have it shipped to my doorstep.
Poring over the details of these new laws I was struck by the pervasive use of terms like license, background check, restrictions and database. Personally, I don’t want the government keeping an inventory of the weapons and ammunition I maintain in my home. I don’t think it’s a particular logic leap to say the founding fathers wouldn’t want the government doing that, either.
I will admit that I take my ammo for granted. If I need a little I can pick it up cash and carry from any number of sources here in town. If I need a lot, it’s just a few clicks away online. I look at my brethren in New York and feel the same pathos I might feel toward those unfortunates trapped in North Korea, Syria or Iran. For those of us fortunate enough not to live behind New York’s new Iron Curtain made of lead, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
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