Historically, gun owners have found themselves the target of great derision by gun control advocates when claiming that firearms registration is a first step to confiscation. Even so-called “responsible” gun owners (which, in the gun-owning community, has become code for “gun owners who are too eager to comply with just about any restriction”) have typically voiced little opposition to registration, assuming that the very existence of the 2nd Amendment will serve to prevent any truly draconian gun control measures…like confiscation…from ever being implemented.
Well, as it happens, the fears over registration leading to confiscation have received additional credence recently, courtesy of what any sane person sees as alarming doings within the city of Buffalo, New York. There, the police department there has chosen to start applying within its municipality a state law that declares police agencies can actually go to the home of a just-deceased person and confiscate the handguns he owned. The purported justification for the law is the effort to secure firearms that might conceivably end up in the hands of criminals; in a recent press conference, the Buffalo Police Department asserted that a major component of the weapons used in crimes in their jurisdiction is the fact that they were stolen in burglaries. In the minds of the BPD, then, this issue rises to a level so great that it demands confiscating the firearms from the homes of owners who just passed. Specifically, what the BPD is doing is cross-referencing death records with the names of those people who have pistol permits, and when it is revealed that a permit holder has died, department representatives make a trip to his residence to confiscate the firearms.
Obviously, there are lots of problems with this. For one thing, while we could all at least theoretically rationalize the utility of oppressive state measures to keep order, who says that keeping order, particularly at the expense of liberty, is in the best interests of the people? It may well be in the best interest of the government, and those people who work for government, but who has deemed that such measures are in the interests of the citizens, at large, let alone something that a preponderance of them would want? While we hate to see reckless drivers on the roadways, who among us would want to institute life in prison as a consequence of reckless driving? While such a harsh punishment might well see the number of incidents of reckless driving drop way, way down to unimaginably low levels, do we really want to send all reckless drivers to prison for the rest of their lives? The fact is that the citizens of a country founded on a bedrock of liberty are generally accepting of certain, broad, societally-based risks to life and limb in exchange for enjoying freedom. The concept applies very neatly in the subject at issue here – we all know that sometimes burglars will find firearms in a home, and we further know that sometimes those firearms may subsequently be put to use in a crime. Still, how many of us are even a little comfortable with having our local police department do what the BPD is doing currently in exchange for securing for us some very-unknown quantity of safety?
BPD commissioner Daniel Derrenda has indicated that the procedure will be for police officers to be dispatched to retrieve the pistols from the executors of the deceased persons’ estates. However, it remains to be seen for how long the state law will remain unchallenged in the court system, now that it is being actively implemented in at least one major New York jurisdiction. The provision in place for family members to retain ownership of the firearms is somewhat onerous, resulting in a law that does a poor job adequately reconciling itself with the inherent right of heirs to retain ownership…and possession…of a deceased relative’s property. Additionally, this particular misfire further validates those who suggest that the real aim of the statute is to confiscate firearms under the guise of working to limit a threat to public safety. Buffalo defense attorney Dominic Saraceno sees a host of legal challenges in the law’s immediate future, and flatly states that if a cop showed up on his doorstep demanding property, sans a warrant signed by a judge, he’d give him nothing.
Sounds like a plan.
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