New York City's $340 fee for a 3-year "Residence Premises" handgun license far exceeds
the fee charged by any other U.S. jurisdiction for comparable licensure. Even within the State of
New York, most other residents pay no more than $10 for a handgun license – but State law
exempts residents of New York City from this protection, instead authorizing the City to impose
fees without limit. The only apparent purpose for this disparate State-law treatment is to permit the
City to use prohibitive license fees to discourage people from exercising their constitutional right to
keep and bear arms. However, the purpose of suppressing the exercise of a constitutional right is no
legitimate purpose at all. New York City's $340 fee is unconstitutionally excessive in its own right,
and the New York State law that exempts City residents from its protection against prohibitive fees
violates the Equal Protection Clause.
Point I explains that the right to keep a handgun in the home for self-defense is part of the
"core" of the Second Amendment's protections – and one that the Amendment "elevates above all
other interests." District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 635 (2008). In addition, the right to
arms is a "fundamental" right that "is fully applicable against the States." McDonald v. Chicago,
561 U.S. ___, 130 S. Ct. 3020, 3042, 3026 (2010). Simply put, the Supreme Court's decisions in
Heller and McDonald subject New York's handgun licensing laws to a much more rigorous
standard of scrutiny than they have faced in the past.
Point II shows that the $340 fee, N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 10-131(a)(2), is impermissible
standing on its own. The recurring $340 fee is not nominal when viewed in its personal and noncommercial
context. Moreover, even if the fee amount were nominal, the City set the fee without
regard to administrative costs – and plainly, the fee is not calculated to defray them.
Point III explains that the provision of State law that authorizes the City to impose its
prohibitive fee, N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(14), violates the Equal Protection Clause to the extent it
authorizes the City to set a fee higher than $10. This classification triggers strict scrutiny because it
substantially burdens the ability to keep a handgun in one's home – which is a recognized "core" of
the Second Amendment's protection – and also because it reflects the impermissible legislative
purpose of discouraging lawful gun ownership. There is no compelling interest that could justify
the decision to protect most State residents with a $10 fee limit, while providing no protection at all
to residents of New York City. And even if there were, the very existence of less-restrictiveapproaches shows that the disparate burden is not narrowly tailored.
Edited to attach the complaint.