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New York county clerks inundated with pistol permit applications ahead of rule changes

LOCKPORT, N.Y. — Hundreds of people have been waiting in line at the Niagara County Clerk’s office over the past several days to apply for their pistol permits.

Some in line Tuesday had been there since the evening before.

“If I would have known, I would have came that time too,” applicant Mike Deyo said.

Deyo, of Niagara Falls, arrived at 3 a.m. Tuesday and was still waiting around noon.

“It’s definitely worth it to wait, especially so you don’t have to go through the whole new process after the 1st,” he said.

Niagara County Clerk Joe Jastrzemski, a Republican, said his staff is processing as many applications as it can prior to Thursday when New York’s new gun laws will require 16 hours of in-person live classroom instruction plus two hours with an instructor at a range. Clerks believe those who get their applications in before midnight on Wednesday have a confirmed appointment for digital fingerprinting and completed an NRA-certified safety course will be grandfathered into the old rules.

“That’s what was told to us three weeks ago or better and I met with a judge and she was told the same thing so I’m going to hold them to that commitment,” Jastrzemski said.

Tully Rinckey Associate Attorney Ryan McCall said there is still a lot of confusion because there’s been little to no communication between the state and counties.

“Which is leading a lot of people working in the county clerk’s office who need to process these applications with, ‘Okay, we’re going to do what we think we need to do,’ but that may very well not be what the state wants them to do. However, the state has yet to really furnish a lot of the actual guidelines about how they’re going to move forward with this law,” McCall said.

Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns, a Democrat, said his office isn’t quite as swamped as Niagara, even with a larger number of applicants, because he has a satellite office and some extra staff. He has extended hours the past few days and plans to be open until midnight Wednesday at the satellite office.

“My goal is to take every single customer up until the last minute,” Kearns said.

Once the applications are submitted, there is still a multi-step process that includes the sheriff’s office and a judge and can often take several months. That waiting period will likely be even longer as counties like Erie and Niagara expect they’ll have had as many applications over the last several weeks as they sometimes get in a year.

“We just have to ask people to be patient,” Jastrzemski said. “They will get their permit. They will fall under the old rules and we will work as expeditiously as possible.”

Deyo said he’s willing to wait as long as it takes so long as he gets the application in on time.

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