Not even the dead are safe from gun confiscation, as police in Buffalo, New York, are trying to take legal handguns from heirs of recently deceased owners.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derrenda told the press that his officers have started seizing handguns from families’ owners within days of their deaths.
“We recently started a program where we’re cross referencing all the pistol permit holders with the death records, and we’re sending people out to collect the guns whenever possible so that they don’t end up in the wrong hands,” Derrenda told the press.
Derrenda’s efforts have nothing to do with the newly enacted SAFE Act. Instead, Buffalo police are enforcing the Sullivan Act, an old New York State law that’s been on the books since 1911. The Sullivan Act makes it illegal to own a gun that is small enough to be concealed without a permit.
Another statute, State Penal Law 265.20 (f), requires persons without a permit who inherit such a weapon to sell it or turn it over to police within 15 days of the permit holder’s death. Presumably, such people could also avoid confiscation by simply getting a permit.
Did Police Commissioner Deceive Public?
One gun rights advocate — Tom King, the president of the New York State Pistol & Rifle Association — accused Derrenda of misleading the public about the law.
“They’re quick to say they’re going to take the guns,” King said. “But they don’t tell you the law doesn’t apply to long guns, or that these families can sell [their loved one’s] pistol or apply to keep it.”
The law actually does not call for gun confiscation. Instead, it simply requires those who inherit the weapon to dispose of the weapon or turn it over to an “appropriate official.” Under the law, police agencies can hold weapons for up to two years before disposing of them.
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BearingArms.com said police could “use the relative’s pistol permit as the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent to get at every firearm they can, hoping to remove all the firearms from the home while the family is at their most vulnerable.”
Nor does the law authorize police to search homes without a warrant, Buffalo defense attorney Dominic Saraceno pointed out. Saraceno is afraid that police will intimidate heirs into turning valuable guns over to police.
“These gun collections can value into the hundreds of thousands,” Saraceno told Fox News. “If a police officer came to my door without a warrant signed by a judge, I’m not giving them anything. Most people don’t know that and get intimidated.”
Derrenda did not say what his department will do with the confiscated guns.
Buffalo is not the only jurisdiction in New York State trying to enforce State Penal Law 265.20 (f). The Journal News newspaper reported that authorities in Rockland and Putnam Counties are updating records in an attempt to track down handgun permit holders who died.
“What’s in the penal law would work if it were enforced,” Rockland County Clerk Paul Piperato said. “Law enforcement has no real way of knowing if someone dies, which makes it difficult to ensure that records are up-to-date. … I’d be willing to bet that half of our permits are actually inactive.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Erie County Sheriff’s Office told Fox News that agency has no plans to enforce State Penal Law 265.20 (f). Erie County is just south of Buffalo.
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