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?


4 Answers 4


In Germany, diplomatic/consular security staff will be issued a gun ownership card and a gun license, which the Embassy or Consulate will apply for directly at the Foreign Office (State Department) or local authority where the Consulate is based.

This is based on the relevant articles of both Conventions requiring that the laws and regulations of the receiving State be respected.

Article 41 (Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations)
Article 55 (Vienna Convention on Consular Relations)
(same text in both conventions)

  1. Without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, it is the duty of all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State. They also have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State.


The US Diplomatic and Consular Immunity: Guidance for Law Enforcement and Judicial Authorities, from August 2018, (which can be downloaded here: Information for Law Enforcement - United States Department of State) does not meantion weapons, but the Local Law Enforcement and Foreign Mission Personnel does:


  • Permission to possess firearms must be obtained from the local state jurisdiction where the owner resides or proposes to carry such a weapon and is valid only consistent with the rules of the issuing jurisdiction.
  • The DOS cannot intervene in the application/ determination process of any firearms application. Also, the DOS cannot intervene if a local jurisdiction denies a firearms permit to foreign mission personnel.
  • The DOS considers the failure to adhere to local firearms regulations to be a serious matter and reminds all persons enjoying immunity that the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR), Article 41, and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR), Article 55, mandate that persons enjoying immunity are to “respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state.”

The Department of State (DOS) obviously expects that the local firearms regulations be respected and will not intervene should the local authority deny a firearms permit to foreign mission personnel.

Therefore if they have the required permits, issued by the responsible authorities, they may carry (concealed) firearms as part of their official duties providing security for their diplomatic staff while not on embassy grounds.

2015-09-15: Zur Behandlung von Diplomaten und anderen bevorrechtigten Personen in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland - Auswärtiges Amt (PDF)

On the treatment of diplomats and other privileged persons in the Federal Republic of Germany - Federal Foreign Office
This circular explains the legal status of diplomats and other privileged persons in Germany. The explanations are intended to facilitate the implementation of the relevant regulations and to ensure that this group of people is treated appropriately by German authorities and courts.

Grundlagen der Privilegierung bevorrechtigter Personen und Institutionen

  • (PDF page 8)

Mitglieder diplomatischer Missionen und konsularischer Vertretungen sowie Bedienstete, Vertreter der Mitgliedsstaaten und Sachverständige bei Internationalen Organisationen sowie Mitglieder weiterer bevorrechtigter Personengruppen genießen bei ihrem (dienstlichen) Aufenthalt in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland bestimmte Vorrechte und Befreiungen. Die Grundlagen für diese Privilegien finden sich in den allgemeinen Regeln des Völkerrechts, die nach dem Grundgesetz Bestandteil des Bundesrechtes sind, und in besonderen völkerrechtlichen Vereinbarungen, wie z. B. dem Wiener Übereinkommen über diplomatische Beziehungen [WÜD], dem Wiener Übereinkommen über konsularische Beziehungen oder besonderen bilateralen Vereinbarungen [WÜK]. Alle Personen, die Vorrechte und Befreiungen genießen, sind unbeschadet dieser Privilegierungen verpflichtet, die in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland geltenden Gesetze und anderen Rechtsvorschriften zu beachten und sich nicht in innere Angelegenheiten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland einzumischen (so z. B. normiert in Art. 41 Abs. 1 WÜD und Art. 55 Abs. 1 WÜK).

Basics of privileged persons and institutions
Members of diplomatic missions and consular representations as well as employees, representatives of the member states and experts at international organizations as well as members of other privileged groups of people enjoy certain privileges and exemptions during their (official) stay in the Federal Republic of Germany. The basis for these privileges can be found in the general rules of international law, which according to the Basic Law are part of federal law, and in special international agreements, such as the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations [VCDR], the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations [VCCR] or special bilateral agreements. Irrespective of these privileges, all persons who enjoy privileges and exemptions are obliged to observe the laws and other legal provisions applicable in the Federal Republic of Germany and not to interfere in the internal affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany (as stipulated, for example, in Art. 41 Para. 1 VCDR and Art. 55 para. 1 VCCR).

Waffengesetz (WaffG) vom 11. Oktober 2002 [Weapons Act]

  • (PDF page 40)

Nach § 48 Absatz 2 Nummer 1 i. V. m. § 10 Absatz 1, 4 und 5 WaffG bzw. § 56 WaffG können zum Erwerb und Besitz von Schusswaffen und Munition sowie zum Führen von Schusswaffen an Diplomaten, Konsularbeamte und sonstige gleichgestellte bevorrechtigte ausländische Personen, Staatsgäste sowie Personen, die zum Schutz von Staatsgästen aus anderen Staaten in Deutschland eingesetzt sind, folgende Berechtigungen ausgestellt werden:

According to § 48 paragraph 2 number 1 i. In conjunction with § 10 paragraphs 1, 4 and 5 WaffG and § 56 WaffG, diplomats, consular officials and other equal privileged foreign persons, state guests and persons who are required to protect are used by state guests from other countries in Germany, the following authorizations are issued:

An Mitglieder diplomatischer Missionen und berufskonsularischer Vertretungen wird die Erlaubnis zum Erwerb und Besitz von Schusswaffen und Munition (durch Waffenbesitzkarte) sowie zu deren Führen (durch Waffenschein) gemäß § 10 Absatz 1, 3 und 4 WaffG auf besonderen Antrag durch das Bundesverwaltungsamt, 50728 Köln, erteilt (Diplomaten beantragen die Waffenbesitzkarte und den Waffenschein über das Auswärtige Amt in Berlin, Angehörige der Generalkonsulate legen ihre Anträge über die Senats- oder Staatskanzlei in dem Bundesland, in dem die konsularische Vertretung ihren Sitz hat, vor).

Members of diplomatic missions and career consular posts are granted permission to purchase and own firearms and ammunition (through a gun ownership card) and to carry them (through a gun license) in accordance with § 10 paragraphs 1, 3 and 4 WaffG upon special application by the Federal Office of Administration, 50728 Cologne, granted (diplomats apply for the gun ownership card and the gun license through the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, members of the Consulate General submit their applications through the Senate or State Chancellery in the federal state in which the consular representation is located).

  • Do note, that the usual background checks for gun ownership in german are not done for applications by diplomatic corps and their bodyguard staff - they are rubberstamped.
    – Trish
    Aug 18, 2022 at 9:11
  • @Trish Yes, that can be assumed just as some form of background check will be done before the receiving State agrees to the appointment. (The source doesn't go into detail about this) Aug 18, 2022 at 9:57

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.

  • 5
    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
  • 4
    @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
  • 2
    @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

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, 2022 at 21:18
  • 1
    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, 2022 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, 2022 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, 2022 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, 2022 at 0:36

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, 2022 at 0:42
  • 1
    Your quoted text doesn't even appear in the VCCR. -1.
    – cpast
    Mar 22, 2022 at 23:04
  • Article 55 (VCCR) also exists: that requires them to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State. So it is not the end of the story. Article 41 (Consular officers shall not be liable to arrest or detention pending trial, except in the case of a grave crime and pursuant to a decision by the competent judicial authority) is only a part of the story. Both must be taken togeather. [end of story] Aug 18, 2022 at 7:58

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