New York Penal Code Section 265.01-B: Criminal Possession of a Firearm
New York Penal Code Section 265.01-B makes it a crime to unlawfully possess a firearm in New York State. This law has important implications for gun owners and anyone who comes into contact with firearms in New York.
What the Law Says
Section 265.01-B states:
A person is guilty of criminal possession of a firearm when he or she: (1) possesses any firearm or; (2) lawfully possesses a firearm prior to the effective date of the chapter of the laws of two thousand thirteen which added this section subject to the registration requirements of subdivision sixteen-a of section 400.00 of this chapter and knowingly fails to register such firearm pursuant to such subdivision.
Criminal possession of a firearm is a class E felony under this section.
So in plain English, it’s illegal to:
- Possess any firearm without proper licensing and registration
- Fail to register a firearm that was legally obtained before 2013 but required to be registered under the NY SAFE Act
To fully understand Section 265.01-B, it helps to know some key definitions:
- Firearm: Includes handguns, shotguns, rifles, assault weapons, and any other gun. Antique firearms are exempted.
- Possess: To have physical possession or otherwise exercise control over an object.
- Registration: Recording ownership of a firearm with the New York State Police as required by the SAFE Act.
Criminal possession of a firearm under Section 265.01-B is a class E felony. This means potential penalties of:
- Up to 4 years in state prison
- Fines up to $5,000
- Up to 5 years of post-release supervision
Sentences are typically less than the maximum for first-time offenders. But second or third firearm offenses can lead to the maximum.
If charged under Section 265.01-B, possible defenses include:
- You had a valid pistol permit.
- The firearm was antique and didn’t need to be registered.
- You legally possessed the gun before the SAFE Act took effect.
- The police obtained evidence through an illegal search.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate the facts of your case and determine if any defenses apply.
The SAFE Act, passed in 2013, requires registration of all firearms in New York, except:
- Antique guns
- Guns possessed by police and military
- Guns passing through New York or held for certain competitions
The registration deadline was April 15, 2014. So anyone who had a gun before that date must have registered it or face criminal charges.
Safe Storage Requirements
In addition to registration, the SAFE Act requires that all guns be safely stored away from unauthorized users. Specifically:
- Pistols must be locked in a safe storage depository or fitted with a safety locking device.
- Rifles and shotguns must be locked in a safe storage depository or rendered incapable of being fired by a gun locking device.
Failure to safely store firearms is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine under Penal Law section 265.45.
Recent Changes and Challenges
The SAFE Act remains controversial, and portions have been struck down by courts:
- A 7-round magazine limit was ruled unconstitutional in 2013.
- Licensing fees were blocked in 2020 after a lawsuit alleged the fees were excessive.
But the law’s core registration and safe storage provisions remain in effect. Gun rights groups continue to challenge the SAFE Act through lawsuits and lobbying efforts.
Section 265.01-B has made simple possession of an unregistered handgun into a felony offense in New York. This has led to stiff penalties for many gun owners who failed to properly register firearms under the SAFE Act.
At the same time, critics argue the law has been ineffective in reducing gun violence and primarily targets law-abiding owners. Ongoing legal challenges and legislative efforts seek to modify or repeal parts of the SAFE Act.
Real World Cases
Here are some examples of Section 265.01-B charges:
- In 2017, a Rochester man received a 2-year sentence for possessing a loaded unregistered handgun during a traffic stop.
- In 2018, a Syracuse man was charged when police found a gun in his girlfriend’s apartment. He claimed he didn’t live there.
- In 2020, an Oneonta man received 4 years in prison for illegally possessing pistols and AR-15 rifles.
These cases illustrate the severity of potential penalties even for first-time offenders. They also show the complexity of some firearm possession cases under New York law.
How to Avoid Charges
To avoid criminal liability under Section 265.01-B:
- Don’t possess any pistol or other banned assault weapon in New York unless you have a valid permit.
- Make sure all lawful firearms are properly registered with the NY State Police.
- Always store guns securely and prevent access by minors or prohibited people.
- If charged, consult with an experienced New York gun crimes defense attorney.
Simply being unaware of the SAFE Act or forgetting to register a firearm is not a legal defense. Strict compliance with all regulations is required to avoid felony charges for unlawful possession.
The Controversy Over the SAFE Act
The SAFE Act has been controversial since it was quickly passed in 2013 after the Sandy Hook school shooting. Opponents argue:
- The law unfairly turns law-abiding gun owners into criminals for paperwork violations.
- Safe storage rules invade privacy and make guns less usable for self-defense.
- Bans on assault weapons and magazines violate Second Amendment rights.
Supporters counter that the SAFE Act has saved lives by:
- Keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.
- Requiring registration of all firearms to aid law enforcement.
- Promoting safe storage to prevent accidents and suicides.
Grassroots groups like New Yorkers Against Gun Violence advocate keeping the SAFE Act, while others like the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association lobby for repeal. Lawsuits and legislative initiatives on both sides continue the fight.
How Other States Compare
New York is not unique in requiring registration of firearms. Several other states have similar laws, including:
- California – Handguns and assault weapons must be registered.
- Connecticut – All firearms must be registered except antique guns.
- Hawaii – All firearms must be registered within 5 days of arriving in the state.
- Maryland – Handguns and assault weapons must be registered.
However, New York’s SAFE Act is considered one of the most comprehensive and strict registration laws in the U.S.
The Debate Over Effectiveness
Proponents argue the SAFE Act has been effective in reducing gun crimes by:
- Keeping guns from high-risk individuals – Over 74,000 permit applications were denied as of 2018.
- Promoting registration – Over 44,000 guns were registered in the first year.
However, critics point to statistics showing little change in gun crime rates since 2013. And some counties report low compliance with registration requirements.
So there is continued debate around whether the SAFE Act is achieving its goals of increasing public safety and reducing gun violence.
The Path Forward
The SAFE Act remains divisive nearly 10 years after its passage. Possible next steps include:
- Repeal – Unlikely with current political dynamics, but some lawmakers continue seeking full repeal.
- Revision – More probable are incremental changes to lessen certain restrictions while keeping core provisions.
- Court rulings – Future legal challenges could modify parts of the law, as with the magazine capacity limit.
- Non-compliance – Without a massive crackdown, low compliance rates make the law hard to fully enforce.
The future of the SAFE Act remains uncertain. But Section 265.01-B will likely remain a strict liability felony offense for unlawful gun possession in New York.
New York Penal Code Section 265.01-B makes it a felony to possess firearms without proper licensing and registration under the SAFE Act. The law has subjected many well-intentioned gun owners to harsh penalties. Ongoing controversy surrounds the SAFE Act’s effectiveness and impact on rights. For now, strict compliance remains necessary to avoid criminal liability. But efforts to modify or repeal the law continue amidst vigorous debate on both sides.