NYPD Granting Fewer Gun Permits After Supreme Court Ruled It Had To Grant More, Data Shows
A ghost gun hobbyist who’s fighting charges after building an arsenal in his apartment is hoping the data could help overturn some of the city’s remaining restrictions on guns possession.
The NYPD approved fewer new licenses to people requesting permits to carry or keep firearms in their homes or businesses in 2022 than the year prior, data obtained by THE CITY shows — despite the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found a key provision of the state’s long-standing gun control law violated the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
In 2021, the NYPD — which vets firearm permits — received 4,663 applications and approved 2,591 of them, about 56%, all under the stricter “proper cause” standard the Supreme Court struck down last year. That standard required gun owners in New York to show “proper cause” in order to receive a permit to carry a weapon, but the court said licenses should be granted by default unless there was a specific reason to deny an applicant.
In 2022, the NYPD saw an increased number of new applications — 7,260 — but approved just 1,550, or 21%, even though applications filed in the second half of that year no longer had to meet the “proper cause” standard where applicants had to make an affirmative case for why they needed a license.
In the six months after the high court’s ruling in New York State Rifle vs. Bruen, from June 24, 2022 to Dec. 31, 2022, the NYPD saw a surge in new gun permit applications, from just over 2,000 in the same period a year earlier to nearly 5,000. So far, the department has approved 503 of those, or just above 10%, despite its guidelines and state law requiring applications to be decided upon within six months.
Relatively few applications have been flat-out denied — just 16 in 2022, including two for applications submitted after the June 23 Supreme Court ruling, meaning the approval rates still could change as the NYPD completes additional, and now overdue, investigations.
Most of the applications are still pending, an indication the NYPD’s permitting operation came to a standstill in the wake of the ruling, experts say.
“‘Holy shoot, what do we do now?’” said attorney Peter Tilem, describing the conversations he suspected were playing out behind closed doors at the NYPD’s gun permitting department. “Let’s not decide anything and let’s figure out what our options are.’”
Tilem represents gun owners in a class-action lawsuit against the NYPD over delays in the NYPD’s gun-permitting system. “New York City has operated one way for 100 years,” he added.
The NYPD didn’t return multiple requests for comment and clarification on the data, which emerged in court papers filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court at the end of this June .
‘A Right Delayed is a Right Denied’
Attorney Vinoo Varghese obtained the data from the NYPD through a Freedom of Information Law request on behalf of his client Dexter Taylor, a 52-year-old software engineer facing gun charges for allegedly amassing an “arsenal of homemade ghost guns,” per the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, which declined to comment on the ongoing case.
Varghese is seeking to get the charges against Taylor dismissed, arguing in court papers submitted last month that there was no way Taylor could have gotten a permit to keep guns in his home legally. That’s because of what he argues is the NYPD’s molasses-like, corruption-prone permitting process, which he says violated Taylor’s constitutional right to bear arms.
“A right delayed is a right denied,” Varghese said. “They could bury their heads in the sand and try to categorize good men like Dexter Taylor with gangbangers. But that just doesn’t make any sense.”
The district attorney’s office has until July 28 to respond to the motion to dismiss.
The court papers cite the drop in approvals for residential gun permits between 2021 and 2022, the time during which Taylor said he was newly enamored with learning how to build and maintain his own 3D-printed guns.
In 2021, according to the data, the NYPD approved 352 of 1,841 applications for permits to keep guns in a person’s home, or over 19%. In 2022, that approval rate plummeted, with the NYPD approving just 86 of 2,266 new residence permit applications submitted, or under 4%, though that approval rate may shift as the NYPD reviews additional applications.
‘I Geeked Out’
Taylor, a Stuyvesant High School graduate who is Black and the son of a carpenter, has designed software since the 1990s. He’s always building something else on the side, like his own music studio or his dining room table made of teak and mahogany.
By 2021, he’d developed a new passion: building his own guns. “I geeked out, which is kind of what I do. Long story short …I ended up building a bunch of pistols and a bunch of rifles.”
He imagined starting a new career in New Hampshire, or some other woodsy location, building a “laboratory” to construct and repair firearms for other people — but instead he amassed his arsenal in his Bushwick home, in a city subject to some of the strictest gun regulations in the country.
Yet when NYPD officers banged on his door on April 6, 2022, telling him they had a search warrant and demanding to be let in, Taylor says it came as a bit of a shock.
“I thought they went to the wrong house, you know what I’m saying?” he recalled.
NYPD officials confiscated four assault weapons, five handguns and four rifles from Taylor, along with a 3D-printer. He had given his weapons names including Alpha, Switchblade, Wildcat, Ranger, Epoc, Scarab, Mars, and Diana, Taylor said. Diana, he added, was a gun that he’d assembled for his 15-year-old daughter, who he wanted to teach to shoot.
He’s out on a $200,000 bond while facing a 37-count indictment with multiple counts of criminal weapons and firearms possession.
In an affidavit submitted to the court on June 30, Taylor wrote that requesting a permit — which he had not tried to do — to legally keep the guns would have been futile.
“Particularly as a Black man, I knew I would have no chance of obtaining a license due to systemic racism in gun licensing in New York State and nationwide,” he wrote.
David Pucino, deputy chief counsel at Giffords Law Center, an organization that advocates for laws to curb gun violence, cited several other post-Bruen rulings in New York state court in which judges upheld gun charges against defendants who claimed their constitutional right to bear arms had been violated.
“Generally speaking, when we see people who are manufacturing large numbers of firearms without being licensed to do so, they are engaged in gun trafficking,” Pucino said.
“We are not against gun ownership,” he said, pointing to well-established research linking more lenient gun restrictions with higher rates of gun violence. “We are for responsible gun ownership. And that looks like a lot of different things, a lot of different people.
“But one thing it certainly doesn’t look like is amassing an arsenal of guns in your home without regard to any of the laws about manufacturing guns or for possessing guns.”
‘A Really Irresponsible Goal’
In the 6-3 Bruen ruling vote last year, the high court found the longstanding provision that required gun owners in New York to show “proper cause” in order to receive a permit to carry a weapon was unconstitutional, and that licenses should be granted by default unless there was a specific reason to deny an applicant.
The ruling also upended New York City’s longstanding laws by creating a presumptive right to carry guns in most locations, including on trains and into businesses that don’t specifically bar them, while allowing a few areas including Times Square to be “Gun Free Zones.”
The case created some strange alliances. Gun rights groups naturally argued against New York’s laws, but so did Black public defenders, who said Black gun owners were disproportionately prosecuted under New York’s stringent gun laws.
Varghese, Taylor’s attorney, said that his client might be one of those challengers at some point in the future.
“There’s no reason why a good man like Dexter Taylor should be going to prison to serve some ideological battle that they’re going to lose,” Varghese said. “New York is going to become no different than Texas or Florida.”