Dealers face challenges on day one as New York State Police background check system debuts on firearm, ammunition sales – Outdoor News

Albany. — Although it was initially uncertain if it would happen as scheduled, on Sept. 13 the New York State Police began processing background checks for firearm, shotgun, rifle, and ammunition transactions in New York. 

The new system, which replaces federal NICS checks, is part of the 2022 Concealed Carry Improvement Act legislation, which mandates the State Police to perform background checks on ammunition purchases. 

The new system will also supersede the federal NICS system for firearms purchases and launched just 24 hours before press time of this edition of New York Outdoor News. It also comes at a time when shooting sports activity and ammo purchases pick up as some hunting seasons are already underway and more will be opening in October. On it’s first day, at least, dealers and consumers alike found the new system to be challenging. 

In Broadalbin, in Fulton County, John Havlick of Frank’s Gun Shop said that while some customers seemed to care little, others weren’t happy about having to wait for their background checks to clear. Some waited longer than others. 

“Some of them are processed right away, other ones are here for 10 or 15 minutes and then they proceed,” Havlick said. “We had six bags out back with people’s names on it. So, we refreshed and they just went through. So, now we’ve got to grab the bag and put it in another spot. So, it’s just a lot of work for us now.”

In Hartford, in Washington County, Craig Fountaine, of the Hawk’s Corner Sport Shop, was trying to process a late-afternoon shotgun sale when contacted by New York Outdoor News. He voiced frustration at not being able to enter the firearm manufacturer’s name into the new system and was waiting for the State Police to call him back. 

“Forty eight minutes spent typing customer data, three times, total, that I could not save, while waiting for a simple correction, and/or assistance,” Fountaine later shared in an email. “Each of the three times I entered all of the customer’s data it was wiped out because the system would not accept the name of the shotgun’s manufacturer. No way to save the data already entered.”

The online interface is known as the New York National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NYS NICS. It is set up for use by firearm dealers possessing a Federal Firearms License, licensed ammunition sellers, local licensing authority and law enforcement agencies. 

The website provides training materials as well as forms for appealing transfer denials within 30 days of the attempted purchase. The official user guide was published on Sept. 12, just one day prior to the launch. 

“Even that operator could not understand why New York State did not have some sort of ‘soft’ trial-run period, prior to taking control,” Fountaine said. 

In Syracuse, Sandy Ackerman of the New York State Arms Collectors Association was preparing for her weekend (Sept. 16-17) gun show at the New York State Fairgrounds. For weeks she had been stressing over what the Sept. 13 launch would mean for her vendors. As of press time, two had pulled out and she didn’t know what to expect of others. 

“I feel so sorry for my vendors,” Ackerman said. “It’s a very sad day for New York State. It’s horrible. It’s beyond unbelievable what my vendors are going through.”

Lawsuits representing the state’s firearms dealers sought to challenge the new background check system, and other CCIA components, ahead of its debut, and continue to do so. Attorney Paloma Capanna, who represents several dealers in the Gazzola v. Hochul case, filed an emergency application on Sept. 12, which was denied by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Capanna then filed a renewal emergency application to Justice Clarence Thomas. At press time, there was no update on a possible ruling. 

“Our application is still pending and the system that Gov. Hochul launched today was not only a mechanical failure, she may still be stopped yet,” Capanna said in a Sept. 13 email.

Meanwhile, consumers and dealers alike seek to adjust to the new system at a time when ammunition sales will naturally spike ahead of hunting seasons. 

“It’s gonna be time consuming, for us especially,” Havlick said. “Like the Thursday night before hunting season opens and everybody’s just getting one box of ammo.”