Can the security staff (equivalent to the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service) of the various Embassies/Missions/Consulates/etc located in New York City carry (concealed) firearms as part of their official duties providing security for their diplomatic staff while not on embassy grounds? Have these rules changed any since the 1960's?


3 Answers 3


Diplomatic and Consular Immunity: Guidance for Law Enforcement and Judicial Authorities explains the extent to which persons with diplomatic immunity are not subjects to the laws of the US:

Personal Inviolability vs. Public Safety Personal inviolability is enjoyed to some degree by a majority of foreign diplomatic and consular personnel. This inviolability generally precludes handcuffing, arrest, or detention in any form and forbids U.S. authorities from entering the residences, automobiles, or other property of protected persons. Personal inviolability is, however, qualified by the understanding, well established in international practice, that the host country does not give up its right to protect the safety and welfare of its populace and retains the right, in extraordinary circumstances, to prevent the commission of a crime. Thus, in circumstances where public safety is in imminent danger or it is apparent that a grave crime may otherwise be committed, police authorities may intervene to the extent necessary to halt such activity. This naturally includes the power of the police to defend themselves from personal harm.

So law enforcement can stop a shooting in progress, but they cannot arrest a person with immunity if they arrive at the scene of the shooting after the crime has taken place. If a person with immunity carries a holstered gun and presents credentials demonstrating immunity, they cannot be questioned any further unless they acquiesce to the questioning.

  • 2
    This doesn't answer the question. If a person with diplomatic immunity carries a weapon without the agreement (or at least acquiescence) of the US Department of State, that person risks being expelled from the US. So, while it is true that there are no criminal consequences for such a person violating US criminal law (including NY state and city laws), that's not the same as those people being permitted to do so.
    – phoog
    Feb 18 at 21:18
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    In other words, the NYPD is powerless to prevent diplomatic or consular staff from wielding weapons in the performance of their duties, as is every other agency of New York City and New York State along with most of the federal government. But the State Department is not powerless to prevent it, so the question of whether it is permitted is essentially a question of State Department policy.
    – phoog
    Feb 18 at 21:28
  • @phoog you are interpreting the question too broadly. It asks specifically about NYC. This obviously implies that it is about the authority of NYS LE. If you want to split hairs and pretend that it is a question about any LE in NY, go ahead. But I am gonna interpret the question in what I view to be most reasonable way to interpret it. Although even your characterization of State Department actions as LE actions is obviously inaccurate.
    – grovkin
    Feb 18 at 22:44
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    The US Department of State has the authority to impose different requirements on consular and diplomatic staff in different cities because of local laws. The fact that local laws are of interest to the asker of the question does not imply that the question concerns only the powers of local law enforcement. I don't think this question is about law enforcement at all. It's about diplomatic immunity. Consider the question "can diplomats shoot schoolchildren in New York City?" -- the answer is 'no, they'll be expelled of they do," even though the NYPD can't arrest them.
    – phoog
    Feb 18 at 22:45
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    @kisspuska in addition to having the capacity to tell the mission to leave, they have the capacity to tell any single member of the mission's diplomatic and consular staff to leave. And they can therefore place conditions on the conduct of those staff members. For example, they regulate how they drive ("monitors driving records to ensure unsafe drivers are removed from the road"). If they wanted to have a similar program for firearms, they could. I don't know whether they do.
    – phoog
    Mar 21 at 0:36

A license is required, see NYC Administrative Code §10-301. This page describes the procedure: the license type is presumably a "carry guard license". You must also get a New York State pistol license. There are various training requirements. Title 38 of the Rules of the City of New York ch. 5 (handgun licenses) says what the police department rules are for licensing, §5-04 describes the Carry Guard License, which basically says you must show the need to be armed and that you have any required licenses. If you can do this, they may issue you a license. You cannot carry a concealed firearm off the job just because you are consular security staff.

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    Foreign consular staff enjoy official acts immunity. This should exempt them from state and city jurisdiction when they are on the job. Missions to the UN and their staff typically have diplomatic immunity, which also exempts them from state and city jurisdiction for private acts.
    – phoog
    May 24, 2021 at 3:42
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    @Greendrake A order to expel someone with diplomatic immunity is a political act for which violation of domestic law is neither a requirement, nor something that results in automatic expulsion. It is just one factor among many considered by the State Department is making a decision to do so.
    – ohwilleke
    May 24, 2021 at 17:44
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    @Greendrake but the immunity from state law exempts diplomats from needing driver's licenses and from needing to register their vehicles with the state. Instead, they get licenses from the State Department and register their vehicles with them as well. If immunity exempts them from one licensing regime, it will exempt them from the other.
    – phoog
    May 25, 2021 at 0:42
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    @Greendrake the DoS is not going to expel trained security agents who carry firearms responsibly in a manner that would otherwise be lawful but for their lack of a license granted by a government from whose jurisdiction they are immune. Diplomacy is reciprocal: if the DoS expects to be able to provide armed guards for US dignitaries in (e.g.) Israel, it has to allow (e.g.) Israel to provide armed guards in the US. Conversely, if it expects Israel to rely on the Diplomatic Security Service and the NYPD in New York, it must rely on Israeli agencies there. I don't know which it actually is.
    – phoog
    May 25, 2021 at 15:55
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    @phoog - "Some" foreign consular staff enjoy immunity, certainly not all. My (British) wife worked in the British Consulate in NYC and, along with most of her British colleagues, enjoyed no immunity. That was reserved for higher ranking government officials. Jun 23, 2021 at 15:38

Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, April 24, 1963 21 U.S.T. 77 596 U.N.T.S. 261 Article 31:

"A diplomatic agent shall enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State."123

End of story.

1 "He shall also enjoy immunity from its civil and administrative jurisdiction, except in [cases irrelevant herein]”

2 It became the "supreme [l]aw of the [l]and" under Article IV, section 2, of the U.S. Constitution after congress ratified it in 1973 without further action required on the part of any States.

3 No objections raised relating to the immunities provided by Article 31 by any of the high party signors, assentors, or ratifiers.

  • 1
    Having immunity is by no means the end of the story. Consular staff will be expelled from the US if they commit crimes. The question asks whether they are permitted to carry firearms, not whether they are subject to criminal penalties for carrying firearms. If they are not permitted to carry them, this will be enforced by expulsion from the country, not through the criminal courts.
    – phoog
    Mar 21 at 0:42
  • 1
    Your quoted text doesn't even appear in the VCCR. -1.
    – cpast
    Mar 22 at 23:04

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