Amid crime fears, NYC sees surge in gun permit applications

Amid ongoing fear of crime, more than 13,300 New Yorkers applied for licenses to carry guns in the city last year, a near-double increase compared to 2022 — and the NYPD’s financial bottom line has been boosted by the permit surge, according to a Daily News analysis.

Spokespeople for the NYPD and Mayor Adams’ office said this week they can’t definitively determine what’s driving the spike in gun permit applications. It’s unclear from the gun permit data how many of the 2023 and 2024 applications were actually approved and resulted in new licenses being issued.

But NYPD data shows the wave of weapon seekers started to skyrocket in the months after Sept. 1, 2022, when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling took effect that struck down a New York law that required applicants for concealed carry permits to prove they had “proper cause” to bear a weapon for self-defense purposes.

With that law invalidated, New York applicants can get a permit without proving a specific self-defense need as long as there’s no other disqualifying reason, such as a past felony conviction.

David, a firearm consultant who helps New York gun permit seekers with the process, said the application explosion comes as he has noticed an increasing number of clients wishing to get a weapon because they’re scared. While major crimes in the city have dipped in recent years, they still remain above pre-pandemic levels.

“Definitely the most popular reason is they just don’t feel as safe as they used to, with the protests, riots, crime,” David, who spoke on condition that his last name not be used, told The News, referring to recent demonstrations against Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

The new police data reviewed by The News shows the NYPD received 13,369 gun permit applications in 2023. That marked a significant jump from 2022, when the department received 7,407 applications, and 2021, when it took in 4,665, according to the data.

Mayor Eric Adams (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News)
Mayor Eric Adams (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News)

From Jan. 1 through March 3, the most recent span for which data is available, the department received 3,358 applications, making the total number of permit claims submitted since Jan. 1, 2023 at least 16,727. If the application clip through March 3 continues, the department will see roughly the same spiked number of permit claims in 2024 as it did in 2023.

Gerald Esposito, owner of Esposito’s Custom Guns in Queens, said he sees the increase in permit seekers as an overall good thing, but worried New York’s current weapons training requirements for applicants are too lax.

“It’s 16 hours in the classroom and two hours on the range. I took the class and it’s a very basic class. I would not let someone hold a gun next to me who was in that class. I was scared with some of the people in the class. One mistake could be a very bad mistake,” said Esposito, whose shop mostly caters to patrons who need customized weapons for target shooting competitions. “The training needs to be beefed up or reinforced … I would love everyone to have the right to carry a gun, but I want to be safe too.”

Though the data reviewed by The News doesn’t spell out a specific reason for the permit application uptick, it comes as surveys show New Yorkers continue to worry about crime in the city, which police data shows remains above pre-COVID pandemic levels.

The city has seen more than 16,000 New Yorkers apply for a license to carry guns, according to police and budget data reviewed by the Daily News. (Shutterstock)


Amid the mounting applications, data provided by Adams’ office shows the NYPD is on track to rake in $6.3 million in gun permit application fees this fiscal year, which started July 1, 2023 and runs through this June 30. Regardless of whether it approves or rejects an application, the NYPD requires applicants to pay processing fees that cost as much as $340 per permit.

Of the $6.3 million haul, $1.4 million is labeled in budget documents as “additional” cash raised as part of a so-called Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG) implemented by Adams in November to cut municipal spending and boost revenue streams amid fiscal uncertainties fueled by costs associated with the city’s migrant crisis.

Adams spokeswoman Kayla Mamelak said the NYPD wasn’t directed to generate a specific amount of gun permit revenue as part of the PEG. She wouldn’t say whether the revenue boost was the result of any specific actions taken by the NYPD.

For next fiscal year, which starts July 1, the NYPD expects to take in $2.77 million in gun permit revenue, less than half of what’s rolling in this fiscal year, budget documents say. Mamelak wouldn’t say why the revenue’s projected to drop that sharply.

The NYPD did not immediately make officials from its gun permit unit available for an interview.

NYPD investigating a scene of a shooting at 105 Rogers Ave in Brooklyn, New York on Tuesday, April 23, 2024.
NYPD investigating a scene of a shooting at 105 Rogers Ave in Brooklyn, New York on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (Shawn Inglima for New York Daily News)

The gun permit data revelations come after a poll from the Manhattan Institute conducted earlier this month shows 62% of likely city voters — including majorities in all racial groups and political parties — feel the city is less safe today than it was in 2020, while only 11% believe safety has improved over the same span.

NYPD data corroborates at least part of that sentiment.

The data shows that as of last Sunday, the number of major felonies in the city so far this year are up 39.3% when compared to the same period in 2019. Looking at the same comparative point in time, the number of shooting victims are up 16.7% and the number of shooting incidents are up 11.1%.

Looking at the more recent past, major felonies are down in the city by 0.9% when compared to 2022 and down 3.1% when compared to last year. Shooting victims and shooting incidents are down even more, having respectively dropped by 39.1% and 39.5% when compared to 2022, the data shows.

Police investigate a double shooting on Lexington Avenue and East 128th Street in Manhattan, New York City on Sunday, March 24, 2024. (Gardiner Anderson for New York Daily News)

Gardiner Anderson for New York Daily News

Police investigate a double shooting on Lexington Avenue and East 128th Street in Manhattan, New York City on Sunday, March 24, 2024. (Gardiner Anderson for New York Daily News)

Echoing David the firearms consultant, a Nassau County gun shop owner told The News he has in his own surroundings noticed more people applying for weapon permits because of “what’s going on globally.”

“It’s taken on an extra sense of urgency,” said the owner, who spoke on condition that neither he nor his shop be named. “People are in fear of what’s going on.”

The unit that processes all city gun permits is the NYPD Licensing Division, housed at the department’s Manhattan headquarters.

A number of members of that unit have over the years been convicted of taking bribes in exchange for expediting permits. That includes David Villanueva, an ex-division supervisor who was sentenced to four months in prison in 2019 after admitting he and other unit members took bribes to approve 100 gun permits that should’ve never been issued. Mamelak and NYPD spokespeople didn’t return a request for comment on whether any particular anti-corruption protocols have been enacted amid the recent surge in gun permit applications.

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