Oh Deer: New York Ammo Background Checks Causing Headaches for Hunters

deer hunting day2 (12) by M&R Glasgow is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 .

It’s been two months since New York State Police started running background checks on every ammunition sale in the state, and the problems that plagued the launch of the new mandate have yet to be resolved.


Carly Short, who owns Johnson’s Country Store in Lockport, New York, says business should be booming this time of year with hunters filling the shop’s interior in search of ammo before deer gun season kicks off this weekend, but it’s been pretty quiet this week. Many hunters planned ahead and bought their ammo before the background checks were implemented in mid-September, which was a wise move since Short says customers are still routinely experiencing long delays when making their purchases.

“I tell people there’s good days and bad days,” Short said. “We will have a whole day where everybody gets ‘proceeds’ and everybody is happy… The next day, every single person is a ‘delay’.”

New York State Police run the background checks and sent a statement about wait times that said: “Firearms and ammunition checks are handled in an accurate and timely manner. The NYS NICS unit processes transactions immediately. However, some responses will take longer than others depending on the amount of research required.”

While many of Short’s regular customers had the foresight to purchase their ammo in the days and weeks before the ammo background check law kicked in, other retailers closer to the borders of neighboring states like Pennsylvania say they’re seeing their customer base disappear completely.


“I think that unfortunately because of our proximity to Pennsylvania, it’s having much more of an impact on our local dealerships because people are just not going to go through the hassle. They can go 15-20 minutes down the road into Pennsylvania and buy ammunition without a problem and not be challenged at all,” said Chemung County Sheriff Bill Schrom.

“We’ve definitely seen people go over the border to Pennsylvania. We’re close enough that they can go over there without having to do a background check. Makes no sense whatsoever. Most people that come in to buy ammo, they’ve already bought a gun. They have to go through a background check for the gun. Now the redundancy makes them do background checks for the ammunition as well. A lot of people are getting delayed for no reason. The state system setup doesn’t even give us a time frame. We submit it and then sometimes it’ll go right through. Other times it just says pending. It could be pending for as little as fifteen minutes or we’ve had it go as long as four days now for some people,” said founder of Pugh Self-Protection and Combatives.

Other retailers say they’ve seen instances where a NICS check for a firearm purchase be approved, but the same person’s ammo purchase will be denied. Given the screwy nature of the ammo background check process, it’s no surprise that many gun owners near the state’s southern border are choosing to drive into the Keystone State to stock up.


Unfortunately for retailers and gun owners alike, these issues aren’t likely to go away anytime soon. While there is a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ammo background check provisions, the Supreme Court denied a request for an emergency injunction in the case last month. The lawsuit itself continues, but the broken background check system will remain in effect while the case makes its way through the courts. We’ll have to wait and see if the checks have a major impact on the number of hunters taking to the field, but it looks like it’s already taking a toll on retailers close to the borders of free states.


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