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I recently had a discussion with a gentlemen when asking about a scar on his body and it led to a shocking story that almost seemed such an abortion of justice as to not be entirely correct or truthful.

He told a story that he legally owned a firearm as a citizen of Pennsylvania and travelled through New York state on his way to New Hampshire. He had the ammunition and magazine in the trunk and the firearm locked in his glovebox. On his way, he ended up in a terrible accident on the interstate and was ejected from the vehicle. He was taken unconscious to a hospital where he was kept in a medically induced coma for several days in the ICU where he fought for his life. After a succesful surgery, he was awoken to be told by law enforcement that he was going to be placed under arrest as soon as he was released from the hospital, as the firearm and ammunition were ejected from the car during the accident and found.

The charges he was told were that while it was legal to travel through the state of New York with a firearm, it is illegal to stay overnight in the state with the firearm if you are not a citizen of the state of New York?

So he was in fact arrested and charged with a felony apparently, released on 50k dollar bond, and was facing prison time. He scrounged what little savings he had and hired a defense lawyer that advised him to plea for a reduced sentence of probation, and that conditions of this are that he is not to possess firearms and must not be under the influence of alcohol.

The story defies belief and I definitely feel there is much more to this story than was told to me.

Is there such a firearm law in New York that you are not allowed to stay overnight while travelling through the state with a firearm? If this is in fact true, why would he not have a valid defense in that being unconscious and kept under medical coma to save his life, that he did not have ability to choose in this instance to not stay overnight? And if this is not a valid defense, why would they press charges against the man that nearly died and fell into such great misfortune? And what does the 2 year moratorium for alcohol have to do with the probabtion?

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    this sounds contrived, but traveling through Ny with firearm is a risky endeavor.
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 22:53
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    This absolutely sounds like a made-up story, covering up what he actually did (if not causing the accident, whether drunk or not, it probably does involve reckless use of firearms and/or an issue with alcohol relating to social interaction).
    – user4657
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 22:55
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    Sounds like an urban legend. Somebody I know heard this from somebody else, etc. Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 23:00
  • Abstaining from alcohol is a common stipulation for probation in general.
    – Ryan_L
    Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 1:32

1 Answer 1

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This story is plausible but the technical legal details are probably wrong. It is completely illegal to transport a pistol in a car in New York State if you do not fall into the list of exceptions § 265.01-b:

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.

Since the question mentions the firearm locked in a glovebox I'm assuming it is a pistol. Comments have suggested and certain exemptions in the law suggest that there isn't a licensure or registration requirement for manual action long guns, but I have not found the specific section exempting them from the possession law. There is a long list of exemptions to the possession law in § 265.20, but the only one that could be applicable to a person just travelling through the state might be section 13:

13. Possession of pistols and revolvers by a person who is a nonresident of this state while attending or traveling to or from, an organized competitive pistol match or league competition...

Notably, for a regular citizen they must have a New York State carry permit to possess a handgun, and their long guns must be registered with the state:

3. Possession of a pistol or revolver by a person to whom a license therefor has been issued as provided under section 400.00 or 400.01 of this chapter or possession of a weapon as defined in paragraph (e) or (f) of subdivision twenty-two of section 265.00 of this article which is registered pursuant to paragraph (a) of subdivision sixteen-a of section 400.00 of this chapter or is included on an amended license issued pursuant to section 400.00 of this chapter.  

Neither applies to someone simply travelling through the state to another state who hasn't fulfilled the appropriate license or registry requirements. What may apply, however, is the federal Firearm Owners Protection Act, which in part codifies 18 U.S. Code § 926A:

Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle: Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.

The notwithstanding in this case preempts state law and affirms that transporting a firearm between two states that allow the person to carry that firearm cannot be a crime assuming they meet the statutory requirements on carrying the firearm and ammunition. However, he failed to meet those requirements by keeping the firearm in the glove box, which the federal law specifically does not protect. Therefore, NY State law is allowed to apply and he can be charged with possession without a license under NY State law. The part about whether or not he stayed overnight being a distinction may be a retelling error or conflating this law with similar state laws that allow transporting firearms that are inaccessible in the vehicle as long as the vehicle doesn't stop in the state beyond minor pit stops (e.g. for gas).

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  • The first link is misleading. There is no registry requirement for long guns in NY. I don't think it really changes the answer, but it may be wise to find a more complete citation.
    – Ryan_L
    Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 1:37
  • @Ryan_L I see, long guns have to be registered but there isn't a licensure requirement for them. Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 2:24
  • There is no registration for them, period. Maybe the full context of your link is about assault weapons, or specific to NYC or something, but long guns in general are not required to be registered or licensed. gunlaws101.com/state/law/new-york/firearm-registration
    – Ryan_L
    Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 2:58
  • @Ryan_L The attached section did say assault weapons, I can take a closer look tomorrow if another section exempts other long guns. It's probably a moot point for this question since you can't usually store a long gun in the glovebox. Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 3:09
  • Thank you for the answer, but he did mention to me that the firearm was ejected from the vehicle during the accident. Wouldnt this be reasonable doubt and thus a good defense? Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 11:46

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