LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) — We are hours away from when New York State’s new gun laws go into effect. And that’s led to huge lines of people trying to apply for pistol permits before the midnight deadline.
People were lined up overnight outside the Niagara County Clerk’s Office.
“I came down at 6 in the morning and there was 115 people in line and I heard they were taking 150, so I jumped in line,” Jonathan Strassheim of Cambria said.
The process to obtain a pistol permit is becoming more challenging in New York State. When the law takes effect on Thursday, anyone looking to get a concealed carry license will have to take a state-required firearm safety training course. They’ll also have to provide the state with their social media accounts. This means more hours of training and more paperwork to obtain a license.
“Something that I’ve been procrastinating about for a long time and I knew things would be changing after today, so I figured it was time I better do it,” Patricia Woyksnar of Niagara Falls added.
Hundreds of people have been trying for days to get their applications processed before the law changes.
“Protection is always an issue,” Kenneth Johnson said. “Definitely, being a father, I want to make sure that I’m safe, my family is safe.”
“I actually recently opened up a boutique, so I’m using this pistol permit to have protection for my employees and myself, and plus my family’s safety,” Jessica Billingslea-Young said.
The Niagara County Clerk tells News 4 they may extend their hours Wednesday night. While the courthouse closed at 5 p.m., the Clerk’s office remained open until at least 8 p.m. Because so many residents were in line in the morning, the County issued return tickets, telling residents what time they could come back to process their paperwork.
Some residents do not agree with the changing process.
“Well I think its politically motivated and I think its going to be turned around as soon as it can get back up to the Supreme Court,” Alfred Anderson Jr. of Lockport said.
In the meantime, Erie County has extended its hours to process as many applications as they can before Wednesday night’s deadline. The Outreach Center in West Seneca will be open until Midnight.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday the stricter licensing process was created in response to the Tops Mass Shooting on Jefferson Ave. and after the Supreme Court struck down a century-old concealed carry law in June.
“Supreme Court decided at a time when people are still mourning. They decided to strip away the rights of a Governor to protect her citizens from gun violence,” Gov. Hochul said in a press conference.
Erie County Sheriff John Garcia says the state did not involve local law enforcement while drafting the new regulations. He feels law enforcement was left in the dark.
“I’m very disappointed with the Governor’s actions. She did not have law enforcement come to the table. None of the County Sheriff’s across New York State were brought to the table on this issue,” Sheriff Garcia said.
Some residents say this new law should be challenged in the nation’s highest court. Wednesday night, Attorney General Letitia James said a federal court backed the states law and denied a preliminary injunction filed by the Gun Owners of America. Her office said this clears the way for the Concealed Carry Improvement Act in New York.
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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.