Criminal Defense of a Weapon Arrest: Defining “Firearm” as it Relates to New York Gun Crimes and New York Gun / Weapon Possession Laws

One of the more common violent crimes charged in New York is Criminal Possession of a Weapon pursuant to New York Penal Law sections 265.01, 265.02 and 265.03. While the lower level weapon crimes often relate to the possession of knives or similar instruments (gravity knives and switchblades), the more serious weapon crimes usually relate to the possession of a “firearm.” Obviously, because they do not reside here, many out-of-state residents who travel to New York are unfamiliar with the strict gun and weapon laws in New York City. Unbeknown to them, even bringing their duly licensed pistol, revolver or handgun from their home state into New York will result in an arrest for possession of that firearm. Sadly, gun owners who legally possess their weapons out of state are routinely arrested in New York City airports (Queens County) such as LaGuardia Airport or John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport. What was an innocent mistake is now a serious felony punishable in most circumstance by a mandatory minimum of 3.5 years in state prison.

Just like other areas of law, New York weapon and gun laws have their own terms, definitions and legal decisions. In other words, while you might think your gun is not loaded because the ammunition is not in a magazine or cylinder of a gun, the gun is actually loaded in the eyes of New York law because the firearm is capable of being loaded. Another term that causes some confusion, but is critically important to understand, is what constitutes a “firearm” in New York.

Despite what you might think, the various degrees of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in New York do not specifically define revolvers as opposed to pistols, “handguns,” or other weapons. Generally, most of these types of guns are defined as “firearms.”

Pursuant to New York Penal Law section 265.00(3), the following weapons fall under the umbrella of “firearms” in New York:

(a) Revolvers and pistols; (b) a shotgun with on ore more barrels less than eighteen inches long; (c) a rifle with at least one barrel less than sixteen inches long; a modified shotgun or rifle with an overall length of less than twenty-six inches or (d) and assault weapon. While this entry will not go into greater detail as to the legal definitions of these particular weapons, New York Penal Law section 265.00 further defines some of these terms such as “shotgun” and “rifle.” While most firearm crimes prosecuted in New York are related to revolvers and pistols, if you are charged with this type of offense it may be important to ascertain whether the weapon you are alleged to have possessed is actually of the type defined in this section of the New York Penal Law.

For further information on New York gun and weapon crimes including potential punishments, specific statutes and general descriptions, please follow the highlighted link to Saland Law PC’s Weapon Crimes section of the website. Additional information relating to legal issues including what constitutes a loaded gun in New York, search and seizure, court decisions and other information can be found on the Weapon Offense section of the New York Criminal Lawyer Blog at NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com.

The New York criminal defense attorneys at Saland Law PC have successfully represented numerous individuals in gun and weapon crimes throughout the New York City region including individuals charged with possessing loaded firearms in New York and regional airports. Prior to starting the criminal defense firm, both members served as prosecutors under Robert Morgenthau in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

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