The NYC Second Amendment infringement case you're not hearing about

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Cavalier Knight lives in New York City. He currently holds an FFL issued by the ATF and has his Class III endorsement. Knight’s business, as noted in his own words on his webpage, specializes “in providing quality firearms and tactical ballistic protection.” The items Knight mostly focuses on selling would be plate carriers and ballistic armor, although he has bigger aspirations. He’s a registered vendor able to sell goods and conduct commerce with the City of New York. Even though Knight has his federally issued FFL, he can’t deal in firearms in New York City. This situation he’s in intrigued me, so we had a chat.

My issue is I’ve had an FFL since about 2011. When I first went to get it, they denied it because they said I didn’t have the State Firearm Dealer’s License from the City. And I didn’t have a location. But, you can’t get the State Firearm Dealer’s License unless you have an FFL first. And, the ATF allows you to keep inventory at offsite storage locations, and you can go to gun shows and do stuff in e-commerce. So you don’t really need a store, so they [ATF] reversed my FFL [denial] and ended up giving it to me. But the City of New York’s thing is they have this caveat where they won’t issue the State Firearm Dealer’s License to you unless you have a physical store.

Immediately the situation made me think of the laws in New Jersey being akin to this, where there was a crack-down on so-called “kitchen table” dealers. These anti-freedom jurisdictions get off on subverting the freedoms and liberties of the citizens they’re supposed to be serving. What difference does it make if a dealer sells a firearm on his kitchen table or from across a glass cabinet in a store? I once visited an impressive in-home FFL and his basement was a Mecca of firearms.

This requirement is just flat out discrimination. This is an economic sanction of sorts. Like everything else in a corrupt system, if you don’t have the money, you can’t come to play.

To make sure we were on the same page, I asked Knight where in New York City he was, remembering the five boroughs all fall under the same crappy laws. He told me smack dab in the middle of the viper pit (my words, not his), Manhattan. 

I could count on two fingers the number of locations I’ve personally visited in Manhattan where I laid my hands on firearms. One being the Beretta Gallery, a location that’s difficult to call a “gun dealer” in the sense of what most of America knows as a “gun dealer”. The Beretta Gallery is very-much-so like a shotgun museum of sorts. I implore people who do decide to wade through the muck and filth of the City to visit that location. The other location was an exclusive establishment that I’m just not going to talk about. But how many FFLs are there really in New York City?

According to the ATF, the entire State of New York has 2,105 registered FFLs of all types. Knight’s FFL is one of nine in the entirety of New York, NY, Manhattan, aka the Big (spoiled) Apple. This requirement that all FLLs must have a brick and mortar location before they’re issued a license by the city is absurd. Even worse; this requirement, is not actually in the law according to Knight.

There’s no requirement for a physical store under the law, penal law, federal law. Because I’m an FFL, I can just go to gun shows, never sell over the counter. I can sell through the mail order, never sell over the counter sale, to do e-commerce, never do a transfer. I don’t have to do any of that. I can pick which one I want. I said “You can’t take the parts that I can do and just stick me in the store.”

Where does this leave Knight? His only option left is a court challenge. Knight mentioned he’d been an FFL since around the year 2011. Keeping that in mind, his story is actually pretty long, winding, and might make your head spin. We’re going to cut to what litigation he’s involved in today.

On July 8, 2021 Knight filed his most recent brief in the Appellate Division, First Judicial Department Case No. 2020-04746. His brief presented six questions, with the some of the more compelling being:

(1) Can Appellees use “Title 38 – R.C.N.Y. and/or NYC Administrative Code” to prohibit “Federal Firearms Licensees 01” from selling firearms in “intrastate” and/or “interstate” commerce via “mail-order” and/or “e-commerce?” Although it is an Article III economic “injury-in-fact,” and violates the “(Dormant) Commerce Clause,” “Title 18 – U.S.C. § 923, and “Title 42 – U.S.C. § 1983.”

(2) Can Appellees prohibit “Federal Firearms Licensees 01” from engaging in “intrastate” commerce at “gun shows?” By refusing to issue a state “Firearms Dealer’s License” to “applicants” because they do not possess a “brick & mortar” store in the City of New York? In violation of “Title 27 – C.F.R. § 478.100(a)(1)” and/or “NYS PL §§ 400.00(1)(n)-(8).”

(3) Can Appellees mandate that all “Federal Firearms Licensees 01” must possess a “brick & mortar” store in the City of New York? As a prerequisite to apply for a state “Firearms Dealer’s License” to sell “handguns and/or ammunition” and/or “Carry Business License” to “handle” inventory? In violation of “NYS PL §§§ 400.00(1)(n)-(2)(f)-(8).”

Those are great questions to ask. This is clearly another regulatory scheme. The matter of the City not issuing a State license unless the applicant fulfills whatever arbitrary requirement set forth by bureaucrats is one ripe for judicial review. Racketeering and corruption truly go hand in hand in the City.

When I asked Knight who was representing him I was surprised to learn he’s doing this pro se, which makes the 87 page complaint look even more impressive. Finances are a factor in Knight’s decision to represent himself, but that’s not the only reason. As it turns out, once upon a time Knight did have a lawyer in his first case with the City.

Oh, let me get back to the beginning, you must have this part of it. In my 2014 application, which I was denied. And I had my lawyer that did an appeal of the denial. My lawyer was John Chambers. Come to find out my investigating officer [was] Richard Ochetal. He was the officer that turned state’s evidence on the NYPD scamming for selling carry business licenses. My lawyer…listen, my lawyer who filed my appeal of my disapproval, he got arrested and indicted in the same scam. He went to jail for a year. My lawyer John Chambers, named John Chambers, he went to jail for one year and lost his law license. Oh I’m like, like how is my NYPD investigator and my lawyer, both conspiring to sell carry business licenses to anybody who can afford it, yet you won’t issue one to an FFL?

Knight’s case is not a “carry” case per se. Knight’s case is more or less an interstate (and intrastate) commerce case, where the City is limiting his ability to conduct the lawful commerce he’s federally licensed to do. His plans included keeping the firearms at a location outside of the City of New York in New Jersey, where people are lawfully allowed to store them for the purpose of safe keeping. The situation Knight is in isn’t even one where the City of New York can make some claim that he shouldn’t be able to keep his inventory in his home office, because that’s not his intention.

The biggest kicker to this scheme/scam that the City of New York is playing on Knight? Requiring Knight to pay all the up-front costs of establishing a brick-and-mortar store before acting on his license application. 

…how are you going to force me to open a store, which is a cost prohibitive in the City of New York before I can even apply for the license that allows me to conduct business? What happens if you deny my license? What happens to my door? Yeah, that’s illegal. They can’t make me open a store before I even have the license.

On December 7, 2021 Knight got the notice that his petition was denied. Reading through the order, it seems details of the case were conflated by the judge. From the denial:

Petitioner’s challenge to respondents’ denial of his application for a carry business firearms license, which would allow him to carry concealed handguns in public places (Penal Law § 400.00[2][c]-[f]; 38 RCNY 5-23[b]), is not ripe for review. Although petitioner contends that he requires a concealed firearm for purposes of maintaining his business – through which he sells firearms, among other things – he has not applied for a New York firearm dealer’s license, and respondents have not issued any final and binding determination on any such application (see Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew v Barwick, 67 NY2d 510, 520-521 [1986], cert denied 479 US 985 [1986]). Nor does it avail petitioner to argue that filing such an application would be futile, as he offers no support for that contention (see e.g. Matter of Guddemi v Rozzi, 210 AD2d 479, 480 [2dDept 1994], appeal dismissed 85 NY2d 966 [1995], lv denied 86 NY2d 706 [1995]).

The whole core of Knight’s case surrounded the denial of being issued a State license. Perhaps the system is well-aware of the quagmire they’re in? Can’t bring on destruction of the whole machine, can we? What’s next? Where does this leave Knight?

And I think that’s two things going to happen here. Either, I’m going to submit this paper to the New York State Court of Appeals. And they might turn around and do the same thing they did in a Supreme Court case where we couldn’t take our guns out the city and go change the laws when I get close to the goal, they might issue my license to moot the case.

If they issue it, I’ll take my license. But I will still ask the court, can they pursue the parts of my case that are not affected by this because I don’t technically have a charity case. I have an interstate commerce case, which is a cousin to a carry license. It just so happened to be the City requires me to need this license. But what I’m doing, but they won’t issue it, which on the back end inhibits interstate commerce. So I would push for the other parts of the case to proceed. Because they’re not…they’re not going to just pay me off like that. Even though I made a statement. No, you’re not going to just pay me off and I’m disappearing..I just get my license and no other FFL ever knows this is happening.

This is the case you’re not hearing about. The case of Cavalier Knight, pro se, fighting New York City. When he went in armed with a lawyer, he found out afterwards that his representation was wrapped up in one of the biggest corruption scandals concerning the Second Amendment with those he was challenging for being corrupt.

Talk about strange bedfellows. I don’t know if we should be calling Hollyweird to pitch a story or a civil rights attorney! What do we think the new mayor of New York City would think of this egregious situation in his city? What’ll come of Knight and his case? We don’t know. However, what I can tell you is that we’ll be following his story because someone has to. Wishing Mr. Knight a victorious journey as he forges on.