State Police preparing to take over gun background checks

ALBANY — New York is set to implement a new background check system for all gun and ammunition purchases, and with that new system will come new transaction fees.

On Sept. 13, the New York State Police will take over all background checks for gun purchases in the state, handling all applications as a go-between for the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check system that has been used for years. They’ll also now require background checks for ammo purchases.

To finance the program, gun buyers will now see a $9 fee for firearm purchases and $2.50 for ammo purchases, charged per transaction.

It’s all driven by the decade-old New York SAFE Act, which mandated that State Police take over gun background checks, and begin processing ammo checks when it was passed, but left the specifics of the program up to further legislation. Last year, the state legislature approved the program taking effect in two weeks.

Gun advocates, as well as sportsmen and hunters have expressed concerns over the new system. They expect delays as the state implements the new system, and long wait times for the new office to process the volume of transactions expected. Gun sellers can now handle a background check in minutes from their own computers, but will soon be required to submit all materials to an intermediary with the State Police. The addition of ammo checks, which require all the same information as a gun check, is expected to significantly increase the volume of requests.

Additionally, background checks will be required for all transfers of ammo between intermediaries, which sporting officials have said will burden organized shooting sports.

It’s garnered the attention of U.S. Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, Claudia Tenney, R-Canandaigua, and Nick Langworthy, R-Jamestown, who sent a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul last week asking her to delay the implementation of the new background check system.

“This system will only increase the likelihood of backlogs, the possibility of mishandled personal information and fails to consider an appeals process for individuals denied during background checks,” the letter reads.

It has also received pushback from Republicans at the state level, who voted against the new background check law last year as a block. Sen. Mark Walczyk, R-Watertown, who voted against the new system as an assemblyman last year, on Wednesday introduced legislation that would waive the fees charged for the background checks. The State Police office tasked with handling the checks has no other funding support, so canceling the fees would ultimately leave the program unfunded.

“The surcharge on ammo is ridiculous and unconstitutional,” Walczyk said in a statement. “NICS checks on gun purchases are a common sense way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. However, Kathy Hochul’s ammo tax only penalizes law-abiding firearm owners. This Albany Democrat overreach is going to hurt small gun shops across New York and jobs are going to be lost across the state as a direct result of this policy.”


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