A Manhattan lawyer lost a gun battle this week, but he’s not giving up his war against what he sees as the NYPD’s crackdown on the right to bear arms.
Max Leifer sued New York’s Finest because the department’s License Division rejected his gun permit renewal application in July 2020, charging that he didn’t prove he needed to pack heat.
“It seems that celebrities, athletes and a select few are allowed permits, while law-abiding citizens are denied their constitutional right. To be able to carry in New York you would have to join a gang,” Leifer fumed to The Post.
The feisty 75-year-old, who has had a gun license for nearly 50 years, insists he needs the “carry” permit because he does business deals and takes client retainers that sometimes involve a “substantial amount of cash.”
Leifer is also a partner in two bars that do cash business — Brandy Library in Tribeca and Copper & Oak on the Lower East Side.
A Manhattan Supreme Court judge this week denied Leifer’s appeal to get his guns back — so the attorney is now taking his case to the appellate division.
Amid the pandemic and the Big Apple’s staggering surge in shootings, new firearm applications nearly tripled in 2020 (9,395) from 2019 (3,766), but have dipped this year through Nov. 30 (4,312), according to NYPD data.
The department did not say how many new applications were rejected. The Post reported last year that NYC gun-permit applications were soaring — but the NYPD wasn’t approving many.
The 8,088 applications for first-time pistol and rifle permits submitted from March 22, 2020 — when coronavirus-related restrictions went into effect — to the last week of that year represented a 216% increase over the 2,562 submitted between March 22 and Dec. 31, 2019, NYPD stats show. Despite that “heat” wave, only 1,087 applications were approved, far fewer than the 1,778 greenlighted during the same period in 2019, according to the official data.
A nearly 70 percent approval rate in 2019 plunged to less than 14 percent, according to the March-December 2020 data.
The crackdown doesn’t shock retired NYPD cop-turned-private eye Bo Dietl.
“I know a lot a guys who tried to re-up their pistol license and they’re not allowing them to re-up. They’ve had these carry permits for 30 or 40 years. It’s not right,” he said. “The reality is a lot of these people who are being denied are good, law-abiding citizens.”
Dietl said it was especially unfair to deny responsible gun owners given “the crime problem in New York City. With so may guns on the street. You have to equal the odds.”
Asked if he believed the NYPD plays favorites when it comes to issuing gun permits, Dietl said, “Absolutely. … Years ago I was responsible for getting [late shock jock Don] Imus’ gun permit. There was preferential treatment for celebrities.” He added: “There has been a big crackdown since the scandal.”
In 2017, the License Division was scarred by a corruption probe, with cops accused of fast–tracking applications for gun licenses in exchange for bribes that included booze and hookers.
“They got crazy because of that scandal,” attorney Leifer said of the division’s approval rate.
In the meantime, Leifer’s James Bond-like Walther automatic and a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver remain locked away at the 10th Precinct stationhouse in Chelsea.
“The activities which justified granting a Business Carry License in the past, do not exist anymore,” the NYPD said in its original ruling against Leifer. “You no longer carry or transport cash. You no longer transact business involving expensive watches and artifacts. You no longer collect rent from rental properties. This amounts to a change in circumstance.”
Leifer, who resides on Central Park West and is about to build a third lounge on 44th Street and Madison Avenue, said he needs his guns now more than ever.
“It’s definitely BS. This is arbitrary. I cannot understand the rationale to deprive me of my rights,” he said. “I may have to join a gang. They are the only people carrying.”