Matt Seifer’s phone began ringing after last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring New York State’s concealed carry gun permit rules unconstitutional.
And the calls haven’t stopped since.
Seifer, the founder of Guardian Security Investigation & Training in Deer Park, is a firearms dealer who trains Long Islanders in gun safety and helps them apply for pistol permits.
Since the court’s June 23 ruling, Seifer said, his firm went from assisting three Long Islanders per week with their applications to 10 per day.
“The extreme uptick that we’ve seen are mostly new applicants looking to obtain a permit,” said Seifer, who said business has increased dramatically since the ruling. “My phone was ringing off the hook for almost 72 hours straight.”
Nassau County police said pistol permit applications had increased about 150% since the high court's ruling.
In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court struck down the state’s century-old law that required a judge to determine that an applicant had a legitimate need to carry a concealed pistol or revolver outside the home.
NY approves new rules
Although the ruling will potentially allow tens of thousands more Long Islanders to carry a firearm in certain public settings, any visible change is likely several months away, experts said.
Last week, the Democratic-controlled State Legislature passed legislation, in response to the high court’s decision, mandating 16 hours of training for concealed carry applicants, including two hours of supervised “live fire” training at a shooting range, while placing stronger requirements for the “safe storage” of weapons.
Applicants also must disclose all current and former social media accounts used during the past three years and provide four character witnesses during a background check under the new law, which takes effect Sept. 1.
Businesses that want to allow concealed weapons inside their establishments must first post a sign indicating as much. But concealed firearms will be prohibited at New York's airports, schools, hospitals, places of worship, street fairs, playgrounds, public protests, museums, public transit, casinos, day care and mental health facilities, polling places and anywhere that serves alcohol.
Anyone with a felony conviction would continue to be prohibited from a pistol permit, while individuals with misdemeanor convictions for weapons possession, menacing or DWI or who've spent time recently in drug treatment would be prohibited from obtaining a pistol permit under the new law.
Gov. Kathy Hochul has directed the State Police and State Department of Environmental Conservation to issue guidance to local law enforcement on how to interpret provisions of the law before it goes into effect.
Changes 'mitigate' court ruling
Rebecca Fischer, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, said the recent legislative changes “mitigate” some of the concerns stemming from the high court’s ruling.
“While there may be an uptick in applications, whether or not the individual is eligible to actually be granted that license remains to be seen,” Fischer said. “They have to go through an in-person interview and heightened level of training for more hours and be able to sufficiently show high standards of marksmanship. There’s a stronger evaluation process in terms of who will be able to actually obtain a permit.”
Before last month’s ruling, there were two kinds of pistol permits issued on Long Island by the Nassau and Suffolk police departments and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, which handles permit applications for the five East End towns.
The most common, known as a sportsman, target or restricted permit, allows licensed gun owners to keep a firearm in their home and take it to specific locations, such as their job or a shooting range. A smaller number, typically retired law enforcement, can obtain an unrestricted permit that allows them to carry a concealed gun anywhere allowed by law.
Upgrades to restricted permits
Thousands of Long Islanders, experts said, are now expected to seek to upgrade their restricted pistol permit to a concealed carry license, or seek a permit for the first time, experts said.
Stephen Schwarz, 68, who operates a Syosset auto repair shop, recently applied for a gun permit for his home in Dix Hills.
“I live in the Town of Huntington, and the gang population is growing from what I understand,” Schwarz said. “So, although I have an alarm and cameras, I still don’t think that’s enough. And I want to be able to protect myself and my wife, just in case there is a break-in.”
Glenn Jersey, 32, an attorney from Franklin Square, is also seeking a pistol permit for his home.
"Safety is always a concern. I have a 4-month-old, so it's definitely a concern," said Jersey, who is seeking the permit primarily to take possession of his father's firearms in case he passes away. "So having it in the house, it's definitely something that is always in the back of my mind."
But Schwarz and Jersey may be waiting a while for their permits.
The process of securing a pistol permit in parts of Suffolk can take more than a year, experts said, while Nassau police said it generally takes about six months, and potentially longer if applications are submitted with incomplete information or missing required documentation.
With recent changes to state law, experts said the process for obtaining a concealed carry permit is expected to take even longer.
More permit applications
About 32,000 Nassau residents have pistol licenses and roughly 2,500 permits are issued annually to civilian applicants, police officials said.
"There has been in increase in inquiries regarding the conditions and procedures for obtaining a concealed carry permit," Nassau police said in a statement. "We have also experienced a surge of requests for upgrades to full carry permits, and we are waiting for state and local government to enact these new policies."
Suffolk police did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison said last month that the department was prepared for a wave of pistol permit applications, but "we have to do a lot more reviewing to see what the best practices are and to make sure we are protecting the residents of Suffolk County."
The sheriff's office says there are 5,633 active pistol permit licenses on the East End, and the department typically receives fewer than 10 applications per week. But during the week of June 27, the office received 18 applications, sheriff spokeswoman Vicki DiStefano said.
"It has only been a few weeks since the decision, and it takes time for people to fill out the application and bring it back," said DiStefano, adding that it generally takes six to eight months for the office to process an application. "Time will tell if there is a correlation or sustained increase in applications due to the Supreme Court decision."
Despite the rise in applications, Seifer said the state’s strict training requirements and background process, which he supports, would ultimately limit the number of Long Islanders walking the streets with concealed weapons.
“The small number of people who will be out in public with carry permits will be lawful, licensed and trained gun owners,” he said. “They will have spent significant time and effort to secure this ability. These individuals will have gone through extensive background checks and application process, wait a year or more, and they must take mandatory firearms and safety training. This is a limiting process, making it very likely that we will not see a rapid or significant influx of legal gun owners carrying in public."