Authorities in Buffalo, New York, reportedly plan to confiscate handguns from the estates of recently deceased gun owners.
"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," Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said at a recent press conference, according to WGRZ.
Under the terms of the new program, the weapons will be seized if the descendant's estate fails to take necessary steps to dispose lawfully of them.
Derenda said the goal of the program is to ensure the firearms don't wind up in the hands of a criminal.
"At times, [guns] lay out there and the family is not aware of them and they end up just out on the street," he said.
The plan is legal under state penal law 265.20(f), which states the estate of a deceased permit-holder has 15 days to dispose lawfully of the descendant's handguns or surrender them to the authorities. If they don't, they can face up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The Buffalo Police Department further explained the law in a recent Facebook posting:
"The estate is also requested to notify the Erie County Pistol Permit Office ... of the permit holder's passing, along with a copy of a death certificate and information about the disposition of the firearm(s), so that the license may be cancelled."
According to the law, when a firearm is surrendered, authorities will hold the weapon for up to two years, during which time the estate can sell or transfer it to a licensed permit holder. In the event neither of those things occurs within that time period, the weapon will be disposed of by the authorities.
The National Rifle Association did not respond to a request for comment from HuffPost on Monday. Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, declined to go into detail about the program.
"I don't think that I want to say any more on it," King told HuffPost. "It's an issue that will most likely be resolved in the courts."
In a Friday interview with Fox News, King said Derenda should have been clearer about the specifics of the law.
"They're quick to say they're going to take the guns," King told Fox News. "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."
Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, called the program "cold-hearted" and "ghoulish."
"This is the kind of behavior one might expect in a police state, but not the United States," Gottlieb said, according to a statement obtained by Guns.com. "But it proves that the anti-gun mindset knows no boundaries. From now on, no gun control zealot will be able to dismiss and ridicule the concerns of law-abiding firearms owners that there is no reason to fear gun registration, no matter what form it takes. This explains why gun owners are opposed to registration and other forms of record-keeping and permit laws."
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown did not immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.