By Michael Virtanen
ALBANY— People who live only part time in New York can get handgun licenses here, the state's highest court ruled Tuesday.
The Court of Appeals concluded that New York pistol permits, which are issued by cities or counties, are not limited to people whose primary residence is in New York, reversing a 1993 decision by a midlevel state court.
Alfred Osterweil's license application was denied in 2009 by a Schoharie County judge because Osterweil only had a part-time vacation residence there. His primary home is in Louisiana.
"It's a great victory for part-time New Yorkers," said Daniel Schmutter, his attorney. "Now the Court of Appeals has made clear that part-time residents of New York cannot be denied their right to keep and bear arms as a class because of their part-time residency."
Schmutter had urged the court to directly cite his client's Second Amendment rights as the reason he should get a license, arguing the state law should be struck down. The seven judges unanimously declined to rule on whether the law as previously interpreted was unconstitutional.
The New York Attorney General's Office also urged the court to conclude that the statute permitted part-time residents to get pistol licenses.
The statute says applicants shall apply to the licensing officer in the city or county "where the applicant resides, is principally employed or has his principal place of business as merchant or storekeeper."
Judge Eugene Pigott Jr. wrote that establishing a residence under New York law generally turns on whether someone has "a significant connection" and lives "for some length of time during the course of a year."
The court had been asked to determine the meaning of "resides" under New York's licensing law by a federal appeals court, which has been considering Osterweil's claim that the license rejection violated his Second Amendment rights.
Schmutter said the Second Circuit will now have to decide how the New York ruling impacts the federal case.