If you’re reading this it’s likely because you’re interested in buying a firearm and you live in New York. Smart!
The short version, if you live in NY and want to buy a firearm, you have several significant restrictions that you must comply with. Like them or not, it’s the law and you’ll want to be informed before you buy or build. If you live outside of New York, congratulations but you’re not guaranteed to be free and clear of your own state restrictions. Take a moment, learn about the laws in your state before you buy or build a firearm.
New York residents… want to know a bit more detail… keep reading!
While “the right to bear arms shall not be infringed” is written into our Constitution for some reason infringement is quite common in New York and other states. This brief article isn’t intended to take sides on the rationale or the constitutionality of the situation, it’s just intended to make sure you’re informed about what you can and can’t have in New York. Why should you care? Well first, you want to make sure you are completely within the boundaries of the law. Second, you’re not going to want to create any hassles for yourself buying something that ultimately can’t be transferred to you and then has to be returned, perhaps with a cost. So lets take just a moment, get familiar with the basic elements of the New York SAFE Act and save everyone a bunch of headaches.
While many mistakenly believe the “AR” in AR15 stands for Assault Rifle, it doesn’t. It’s actually the name of the first company that created a specific style rifle based on a military specification. “AR” actually stands for Armalite Rifle, named after the company that made it and was designed in the mid 1950’s. While not initially successful, the design soon took off and today is one of the most popular sporting and military rifles available. I note both sporting and military because while the basic rifle is the same, functionally the typical military version can be set to both semi and fully automatic while most sporting and ‘compliant’ versions are only semi-automatic. In short, semi-automatic means one pull of the trigger and one round is fired. Fully automatic means one pull of the trigger and many rounds are fired. A BIG difference. Yet because most AR-style rifles LOOK the same, many think they ARE the same. Wrong.
With that out of the way, lets talk about the New York SAFE Act. It was put into place to address what some considered ‘dangerous assault rifles’ from being owned in New York. Once you learn about the SAFE Act you’ll find that it really has nothing to do with safety and mostly prohibits features that make the rifle ‘look more military-ish’. Correct… it’s about the ‘looks’ and not really about the lethality or core functionality of the firearm. In fact it really just prohibits some features of the rifle that have nothing to do with lethality. For example, most AR-style rifles have an adjustable shoulder stock so length can be fitted to best suit the size of the person using the rifle. When that feature is used on a semi-automatic rifle with a removable magazine that feature suddenly makes the rifle qualify as an ‘assault rifle’ and is prohibited under the SAFE Act. The SAFE Act also prohibits features like ‘pistol grips’ or a ‘forward grip’ and the list goes on. Nothing about the SAFE Act really makes the rifle more or less inherently safe and thats likely because many gun laws are written by people who don’t really know about the topic or are biased. Having said that, if you live in New York you MUST comply with the all aspects of the SAFE Act so here are a few basics that you should keep in mind.
If you’re buying a bolt-action, lever-action or pump-action firearm you are most likely going to be fine. While there are exceptions such as short barreled rifles, you’ll find that most of the these style firearms are legal in New York State although some may still not be legal in certain counties or boroughs. Where the SAFE Act comes into play is primarily with semi-automatic rifles that have a removable magazine. If the firearm has these two features, under the SAFE Act it can NOT have any additional features or it becomes an assault rifle. Some examples… if it’s semi-auto with removable magazine it can’t have a pistol grip. It can’t have an adjustable stock, or a thumb-hole stock. Not enough? It can’t have a threaded barrel, or a flash hider. It can’t have a bayonet lug, a folding stock, compensator or forward grip. Get the point? If it is semi-auto with removable mag it can’t have any of those features or it’s considered an “assault rifle”. That’s just a subset of prohibitive features, there are a few more. So to the point of this article, you’ll want to read through the NY SAFE Act before you buy to ensure that you’re not wasting your time, money or putting yourself in jeopardy. This is even more true if you plan to build your own rifle. It’s quite easy to ‘accidentally’ violate the configuration laws and get yourself into some deep trouble. While I’ve outlined a few basic configurations here know that there are more restrictions and that includes restrictions on shotgun configurations and magazine capacities.
Given the information above, are there New York compliant AR-style rifles available? Yes, there are. Some manufacturers produce state compliant versions. For New York, one of the most common ones we offer is the Stag Arms AR15 Tactical which comes with all the great features most people want however the rifle has a 10-round ‘pinned’ magazine which makes it compliant. Pinned is referring to the fact that the magazine can not be removed, therefore it doesn’t classify as an ‘assault rifle’ and can have the ‘other features’. These are really outstanding rifles, fun to shoot and completely legal right out of the box.
You may be thinking to yourself this is ridiculous and other states don’t have to deal with this. You’re right. But this is the law in New York and until we elect different leaders and change the laws, we need to comply. Think about that the next time you go to the ballot box! Don’t get upset with your dealer or FFL either… we’re not going to sell any illegal configuration regardless of how much you paid, how much you will lose by having to return it, or even by you promising to take it out of state. Bottom line is we aren’t putting ourselves at risk by selling you something that is outside of what the law permits…. thats for your benefit as well as our own.
Read more about the New York SAFE Act on the state website and make sure you’re fully informed.