The gun permitting office at Nassau County Police Department headquarters...

The gun permitting office at Nassau County Police Department headquarters in Mineola on Wednesday. Credit: Newsday / Janon Fisher

A judge on Tuesday barred Nassau County police from demanding gun permit applicants get drug tested and provide other proof of good character to obtain a handgun license, calling the requirement unconstitutional.

“Forcing an applicant to submit to urinalysis, in essence, requires them to give up their Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful searches and seizures to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” State Supreme Court Justice James McCormack wrote in his decision.

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A judge on Tuesday barred Nassau County police from demanding gun permit applicants get drug tested and provide other proof of good character to obtain a handgun license, calling the requirement unconstitutional.

“Forcing an applicant to submit to urinalysis, in essence, requires them to give up their Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful searches and seizures to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” State Supreme Court Justice James McCormack wrote in his decision.

The judge also threw out several other hurdles to obtaining a concealed-carry gun permit, like disclosing social media accounts and passwords, and questioned why gun applicants must wait up to eight months before getting fingerprinted at police headquarters.

“This court wanted, and continues to want, an explanation as to why it takes so long, and why fingerprinting cannot take place at any precinct (like it can and does for other reasons),” McCormack wrote. “Absent a valid reason, the court could be constrained to find the wait unreasonable and unconstitutional.”

WHAT TO KNOW

  • A judge barred Nassau police from demanding gun permit applicants get drug tested and provide other proof of good character to obtain a handgun license, calling the requirement unconstitutional.
  • The judge also threw out several other hurdles to obtaining a concealed-carry gun permit, like disclosing social media accounts and passwords, and questioned why gun applicants must wait up to eight months before getting fingerprinted at police headquarters.
  • The Nassau County Executive’s Office declined to say if it would appeal the decision.

The judge ordered a hearing to address the fingerprint issue and a restriction that the personal references provided not be in law enforcement or related to the applicant.

County mum on possible appeal 

The Nassau County Executive’s Office declined to say if it would appeal the decision.

“We have reviewed the court’s decision. The county executive supports the Second Amendment constitutional right to bear arms with reasonable conditions not designed to frustrate an individual’s right but to ensure that guns do not get into the hands of criminals, terrorists, the emotionally disturbed and drug addicts,” said Chris Boyle, the spokesman for Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman.

The ruling follows a host of challenges to gun control regulations after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022 overturned many of New York’s gun permitting laws, often referred to as the Bruen decision.

The high court determined that the state law violated the Second Amendment in part because it required a person to show “good moral character” and a specific need to obtain a gun license outside the home.

In response, the State Legislature and Gov. Kathy Hochul passed a new law requiring applicants to provide references, social media history and take gun safety lessons so that New York would not, as the governor put it, “become the Wild West.”

Levittown lawyer Joseph Kamenshchik, who brought the Nassau case, decided to sue over what he saw was an unfair process rife with red tape. Credit: Courtesy Joseph Kamenshchik

The Nassau case was brought by Levittown employment lawyer Joseph Kamenshchik, who said that he applied to get a license during the pandemic for personal safety.

“Things started to get a little bit dangerous,” he said. “We were going through really difficult economic times in the country.”

Suit brought because of 'games' in licensing process 

Kamenshchik decided to sue over what he saw was an unfair process rife with red tape.

“Nassau County, Suffolk County and possibly a few more other counties, they play various types of games when it comes to the pistol licensing process,” he told Newsday. “What I'm saying is that the implementation, the county-level policies and practices are what's violating the Constitution.”

Kamenshchik said it started when Nassau County police refused to accept the state application form.

“If you go to Nassau County with the three-page form filled out on your first day, they'll laugh you out of the office,” he said.

Under the state-approved application format, the process is supposed to take six months; Kamenshchik said that in Nassau County it takes more than a year.

For Kamenshchik it took eight months just to get fingerprinted, which can only take place at the county police headquarters, and then the six-month clock started.

“That kind of gamesmanship, I did not like it,” he said. “I gotta be honest, I don't like when there's game playing like that with the public.” 

Kamenshchik said that the county added many requirements that the state, which ultimately issues the permit, does not.

Particularly troubling, he said, was the demand to turn over social media passwords so that police could check accounts going back three years.

“You're basically giving the government a key to these private areas that are protected by the Fourth Amendment,” he said.

Jerold Levine, an attorney who specializes in gun licensing cases, called the decision “important.”

He said that traditionally State Supreme Court judges have not questioned local rule-making regarding gun permitting. McCormack’s ruling shows that the Bruen decision has trickled down to the lower courts, he said.

“New York State courts have a long history of almost never doing anything to restrict firearm licensing officers,” said Levine, who authored a book on state assault weapons laws. 

A police spokesman did not respond to requests for information and comment.

'Inconvenience' is not a 'big problem' 

At police headquarters on Franklin Avenue in Mineola, the permitting office has been closed for the week for reasons that are unclear.

Larry Scavelli, 61, a general contractor from Franklin Square, showed up on Wednesday after getting notifications that his permit had been approved, but was turned away.

He said that his gun transportation license application took a year before he got the OK, but he said he didn’t mind.

“I don’t think the inconvenience is a big problem,” he said. “You don’t want every Tom, Dick and Harry getting a gun.”

He said that he agreed with placing restrictions on gun licenses in theory, though he could see the constitutional dilemma in requiring social media passwords and drug testing.

“Ultimately, you have to emphasize the concern for safety,” he said. “I’d rather have more restrictions. We should have the right to have a firearm — they’re just asking for us to show we’re responsible.”