New York County Calls for End to Background Checks on Ammo Sales

AP Photo/Brittainy Newman, File

The frustration over New York’s latest background check scheme hasn’t subsided in the months since the State Police started conducting checks on both firearm transfers and ammunition purchases. If anything, the animosity towards the new regime, which has been plagued by lengthy delays and false denials, is only growing stronger.


This week the county legislature in Schuyler County voted unanimously in favor of a resolution calling on the state legislature to repeal the ammunition background check law and restore the old background check system for gun transfers, which allowed dealers to contact the NICS system directly instead of having to go through the State Police as an intermediary.

The resolution will most likely be shrugged off by the Democratic majority in Albany, but Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman and members of the county legislature still wanted to send a message to lawmakers that the new system is unnecessary, unwanted, and is hurting local businesses.

“It’s redundant because most of the people have already gone through background checks for firearms, and the federal system has been in place to do this for years. The pending court challenges allege that these additional costs are a violation of the Second Amendment,” said Getman.

Both background checks come with a state surcharge. A background check for a handgun or rifle is $9 and for ammo, it’s $2.50 per transaction. The background check can take anywhere from minutes, to hours, or even days. Some people have said their purchases have wrongfully been denied.

[Schuyler County Clerk Theresa] Philbin said because of the fees and long waits, gun owners are heading to Pennsylvania for their ammo and guns.

“It’s simply geographically easier to just hop over the border to Pennsylvania and make the purchase. Once you’re down there, why not purchase your ammo or any other guns you might need for hunting, or stands, anything to that effect, which is going to make a huge impact on our local businesses,” said Philbin.


One nearby gun store owner who used to see a lot of customers from Schuyler County told local officials that he stopped selling guns and ammunition the day the new checks went into effect because he knew it would be an imposition and infringement on the rights of his customers. Michael Keegan is now focusing on the gunsmithing side of his Mountaintop Firearms and Gunsmithing business, but says his income has declined by 50 percent since the ammo background checks began.

I suppose supporters of the background check system can argue that Keegan brought that on himself by choosing to discontinue his gun and ammunition sales, but other retailers who’ve chosen to continue offering firearms and ammo for sale have said their bottom line has been impacted by customers who are choosing to drive across the border and buy their ammo in Pennsylvania rather than submit to the ammo background checks in the Empire State and possibly face delays of hours or even days before they can take home a box of ammo or two.

Most members of the Democratic majority in the state legislature wouldn’t shed a tear to see these local shops shut down for good based on declining sales figures. They might even see that as a bonus to the background check legislation, which is facing a legal challenge in federal court. The Supreme Court declined to intervene on an emergency basis and halt the ammunition background check scheme, but that doesn’t mean the Court will ultimately rule in favor of the system after the case goes to trial and the appeals process. That could take years, however, and by the time SCOTUS does get the chance to weigh in again, who knows how many stores will have had to shut their doors for good.


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