New York firearm possession laws are the strictest in the country. It is not possible to possess a handgun in New York without a license issued by the state of New York with a few very, very rare exceptions and the penalties are extremely serious.
How Common Are Gun Arrests At LaGuardia And JFK Airports?
Every year, there are about a hundred people arrested at JFK and LGA while trying to declare their handgun as they check in to return home. Millions of people pass through the airports in New York City and most of them are familiar with New York’s strict firearm laws, but inevitably, there are going to be a few people who simply misunderstand the law and very innocently try to declare and check in their “lawfully owned” handgun.
What Are The Actual Charges Being Made In The Gun Arrest Cases?
When it comes to handgun possession, there are two general charges. Both of them are felony charges. One is very serious, the other is even more serious. The two basic charges are possession of a loaded handgun or possession of an unloaded handgun. In New York, even the possession of an unloaded operable handgun is a felony charge. Until about 3 years ago, possession of an unloaded, operable handgun was a misdemeanor. The continuing uproar over gun violence resulted in it being upgraded to a felony. Loaded handguns are extremely serious charges and are classified as violent felony offenses. Possession of a loaded handgun in New York has a minimum sentence of 3.5 years in prison.
That’s a minimum, not a maximum. The maximum sentence is 15 years in jail. These are not sentences that can be served on probation or anything like that. If you’re convicted of a loaded handgun in New York, you’re going to be sentenced to a minimum of 3.5 years in the state prison with a very small amount (about 1/7th of your time) reduced for good behavior. Other than that, you’re going to do the full sentence. So it’s an extremely serious charge.
What Is The Typical Scenario When A Firearm Is Discovered At An Airport?
These cases are almost always nearly exactly the same. It’s usually an out of state person who lives in a state where handguns are commonly available or if not, they have a license to carry that handgun. Now, they want to travel to New York or even through New York to somewhere else. They know that firearms are a serious matter and they also know that New York has strict laws. So they’ll call up either the TSA or their airline and say, “Can I bring a gun with me on the airplane going to New York? If so, what do I have to do?” The airline or the TSA is very careful to give them the answer. Sure, you can take the handgun, you just have to follow certain rules.
Primarily, you have to pack the handgun in a locked box that only you have the key to. You have to carefully pack the ammunitions separately from the handgun, not in the handgun. When you get to the airport, you just go to the counter and tell them that you have a handgun and you want to declare it. That’s all there is to it. So the traveler, maybe he’s in Texas or California or just about any state, he goes to the airport, shows them the box with the handgun and declares the handgun, and there’s no problem whatsoever. He takes the handgun in its TSA approved lockbox, checks it in with his luggage, is given a TSA declaration slip and it was fine.
Now the traveler goes to New York and picks up his luggage and nothing happens of course because nobody is checking at that point and the traveler goes about his business or pleasure. Then there is the same thing when he wants to go home and walks over to the counter with his lock box, with his handgun and says that “Hey, I want to declare my handgun; I’m going home”. They say, “Wait right here”. A few minutes later, 3 or 4 airport authority police officers converge and place the person under arrest. That’s how the charge actually commences.
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