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Ann Marie T. Sullivan, M.D., Commissioner
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Certificate of Relief Pertaining to Firearm Possession

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If you have been, or may be, disqualified from possessing a firearm based on an involuntary commitment to a mental health facility in New York State, you may petition the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) for relief from that civil rights disability. OMH will review your application and determine whether your record and reputation are such that you will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety and where granting the relief would not be contrary to the public interest.

Background

The NICS Improvement Act amends the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, which established the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The Brady Act requires Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL) to contact NICS before transferring a firearm to an unlicensed person. NICS will provide the FFL with information on whether the person is prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm under state or federal law.

Federal law prohibits the receipt or possession of firearms by an individual who has been adjudicated as having a mental disability or committed to a mental institution as those terms are defined in 14 NYCRR Part 543. These terms include an involuntary commitment to a mental institution and commitment for other reasons, such as drug use. The terms do not include a person who was received by a psychiatric hospital for observation only or a person who was voluntarily admitted but not involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

Federal Law requires that New York State establish a “certificate of relief from disabilities” process to permit a person who has been disqualified from possessing a firearm to petition for relief from that civil rights disability.

To Apply for the Certificate of Relief

To apply for the certificate of relief, you must complete the application (PDF) and submit it to OMH along with all other required documentation. Application packets may also be obtained by contacting the NICS Appeals Office, Office of Central Files, Office of Mental Health 44 Holland Avenue, Albany, New York 12209, via e-mail, or via telephone at (518) 549-1180. All documentation must be sent by mail (return receipt is preferable). Incomplete applications cannot be considered.

Overview of the Application Process

Once you have submitted the application and additional documentation, your application will be reviewed by OMH and a determination will be issued whether or not to issue a certificate of relief from disabilities.

If OMH finds that you have demonstrated that gun ownership would not be dangerous to public safety or contrary to public interest, you will be issued a written determination indicating that a certificate of relief has been issued. OMH will also notify NICS of the issuance of the certificate of relief from disabilities for the purpose of updating your record. You will also be provided with written notice that the certificate of relief does not automatically qualify you to purchase or possess a firearm. The certificate of relief will only remove the civil rights disability based on your psychiatric hospitalization in New York State.

If you are denied a certificate of relief, you will receive this decision in writing and will be notified that you have the right to have the decision reviewed in accordance with New York State law. Please be advised that if you are denied, you may not apply again for a certificate of relief until one year after the date that the written determination is issued.

For Law Enforcement

For assistance in verifying the identity of an individual that has appeared on the NICS database, contact the NICS Appeals Officer via the OMH Help Desk at (518) 549-1180 or by e-mail. Please have all identification information available to provide to the NICS Appeals Officer.