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Old April 9, 2000, 12:38 PM   #1
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"Where Are All The Guns?

By John O'Brien

The crinkly document, filled out in 1942, says a 64-year-old man got a license to carry a .38-caliber revolver to protect himself and his home on Fitch Street in Syracuse.

The man's stern, mustachioed face stares out from a thumbprint-size black-and-white photograph attached to the license. It is still valid. As far as Onondaga County and New York state are concerned, the man is alive and well and packing heat.

He would be 122 years old.

And he's not the only one. As many as 4,000 other cases like his are under scrutiny at Onondaga County Sheriff's Department headquarters. The licenses belong to people who would be at least 75 years old if they are alive. Many of the gun owners would be in their mid-100s.

"I think it's safe to assume they're no longer with us," Sgt. Thomas Metz, head of the sheriff's department's records section, said of the oldest license holders. "The question is, where are the handguns?"

Since pistol license holders own an average of three guns each, about 12,000 handguns are likely out there, either held illegally by relatives or unaccounted for, Metz said. The sheriff's department calls those 4,000 files "suspect licenses."

A detective has so far found one case in which a pistol license holder died and one of his guns wound up on the streets, traded for drugs by a criminal.

Metz and Deputy Gary Rudiger stumbled onto the glut of unaccounted-for handguns five years ago, when they started looking for a way to reduce the load of paper records in the pistol license unit. When they discovered the vast number of licenses that apparently belonged to dead people, Metz and Rudiger looked at each other and said, "What about all those guns?"

The record-keeping problem had become a public safety problem.

"We have people who, according to our records and the records that the state has, were in their 70s and 80s in 1937, and we still show them as alive and well and having their handguns," Metz said. "The good news is, we're not ignoring it."

It is now Detective Ray Herrick's job to track down the suspect licenses and either retrieve the guns or report them missing to a national crime information database. He'll reach into files that go back to 1931 to do it, and it will take at least five years, probably much longer, Metz said.

A federal grant of $30,000 allowed the sheriff's department to hire two retired deputies to do the normal work of the pistol unit supervisor so Herrick can start his mission.

That means tracking down the gun owners' survivors and asking for weapons that they're illegally holding - often unwittingly.

State law requires relatives of a pistol license holder to turn in that person's handguns within 15 days of his or her death. If the guns remain in the home, it's a misdemeanor. Most people don't know about the law, Herrick said. But they don't have to fear his knock on their door.

"We're not out to arrest anyone," Herrick said. "Our responsibility is to investigate the whereabouts of these guns."

Sheriff's officials met with the Onondaga-Oswego Funeral Directors Association a month ago to tell them about their project. The funeral directors, who had been unaware of the state law, have started passing on the information to grieving families. It has become part of their routine checklist to ask a dead person's survivor if he or she had any licensed handguns at home, said Patricia A. Knight, treasurer of the association.

The county's project is getting started as a national debate rages over handgun control and how to reduce the number of weapons available to criminals. The project should serve notice that thousands of unaccounted-for guns would have been off the streets if people had known the law and followed it, Metz said.

"We've got a 50-year problem here," he said. "We're going to be at this for a while."

After discovering the problem in 1995, sheriff's department clerks spent the next 15 months typing the name of every one of the county's 41,000 pistol license holders into the department's Criminal History Arrest Information Reporting System, or CHAIRS.

Now every week or two, the county's Bureau of Vital Statistics sends over a list of people who have died in the county to the sheriff's department. The list is sometimes 100 names long. The sheriff's department tries to match every name with one of the pistol license holders in CHAIRS. They've matched 736 people.

Herrick's next task is to find the families of those people. Of the 736, Herrick estimates that relatives turned in the guns in about 20 cases.

Herrick plans to mail a letter to each license holder's family, detailing state law requirements for turning in handguns. Relatives would need to apply for a license for themselves to keep a handgun. He said he knows better than to come barging through the door.

"We have to tread lightly," Herrick said. "I can't just call up and say, 'I'm a cop and I want your guns.' "

If the handguns can't be located, they'll be listed in a national crime database.

The problem is not unique to Onondaga County. Officials at the state police's pistol license division know of no other county that has started tracking down the pistol licenses of people who are probably dead. But it's likely that a good number of the 1,163,040 pistol licenses in the state belong to people who are long gone, said Sgt. James Sherman, head of the state police pistol license unit.

In Oswego County, the clerk's office sent out letters to the 12,000 pistol license holders in that county about 18 months ago, after a judge saw what was happening in Onondaga County, Oswego County Clerk George Williams said. About 9,000 of the pistol license holders notified the clerk's office that they still had the guns. The remaining 3,000 are unaccounted for, Williams said. But Oswego County is not actively tracking down the handguns in those cases, he said.

Metz said he hopes Onondaga County's project will become a pilot for the state. He also hopes the shock of discovering how many guns might be unaccounted for will prompt a change in state law to make gun owners in Onondaga County renew their licenses every five years. That has already happened in Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties.

At the very least, Metz said, he hopes that by computerizing pistol licenses, his unit will be able to send out notices every five years to every gun owner to determine which license holders might be dead or have moved away.

Herrick reads the obituaries in the newspaper every day, looking for the names of any of the older pistol license holders. The goal is to get as many of the handguns out of homes as he can, to prevent them from being stolen in burglaries and used on the street.

Herrick cited one case in which a licensed pistol holder died in September. After the man's widow died about a month ago, her sister-in-law went through the house and collected the two guns that remained there, Herrick said. That woman's 37-year-old son broke into her home last month, stole one of the handguns and traded it on the street for crack cocaine, Herrick said.

The weapon, a 22-caliber revolver, was loaded with five rounds. It's still missing.

If the man's widow had turned in that gun last year, it would have been in police custody, Herrick said.

Herrick had to track down six other handguns that were listed on that man's license. He determined that over the years, starting in 1948, the man had sold or given them to other licensed gun owners without notifying the pistol license unit as the law required.

In addition to the 41,000 pistol licenses stored at sheriff's department headquarters, at least 20,000 more fill 27 storage boxes at the sheriff's annex in DeWitt. For unknown reasons, those files were shipped to the annex, though their dates overlap with the files at headquarters. The annex files await Herrick once he's finished tracking down the 4,000 suspect licenses at headquarters.

The job will undoubtedly be tedious. But it's more than cleaning up old records, Metz said.

"We know that at the end of the line in each of these cases," he said, "there's a gun."

Sunday, April 9, 2000"
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Old April 9, 2000, 01:40 PM   #2
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Unbelievable, but also sort of funny. I've always felt sorry for New Yorkers. But as a former Californian, I now cry along with them.

Can this story be correct? When you die the State gets your handguns without any compensation? What if you left them in a will? Wouldn't the heir have the opportunity to apply for a permit or at least to sell the weapon? Why not do this with all products. The State could require that you turn in your house and car when you bite the dust.
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Old April 9, 2000, 02:31 PM   #3
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None of will be laughing when they start tracing yellow-formed guns.

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Old April 9, 2000, 02:41 PM   #4
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This is frightening! Imagine police forces all over America going around to the homes of law-abiding citizens and confiscating their guns. Doesn't this police department have real crimes to deal with?
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Old April 9, 2000, 04:19 PM   #5
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Sounds like they found a cushy job for of the state.....I wonder if that would hold up under scrutiny by the ct.'s........fubsy.
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Old April 9, 2000, 05:10 PM   #6
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That's the county that I got my first CCW permit in. The judge that approved the permits stated on the radio that he did not trust most applicants to carry concealed responsibly. One recent year he handed out only 4 unrestricted permits out of 4000 applications. He yanked one gun store's sales permit (a perfectly reaonable "hunting" section of a large sports superstore) because the manager told him (to the judge's face, _outside_ the courthouse) to shove his anti-gun crap. He's had so many complaints that NY has now authorized other judges to sign permits in his place. The permit application window had a sign saying "self-defense is not a valid reason".
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Old April 9, 2000, 05:14 PM   #7
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Can this story be correct? When you die the State gets your handguns without any compensation?

If the guns are not on anyone else's permit, then the state can take them (well, they're not legal for anyone else to own). The only exemption is if someone else takes posession (reasonably; not via theft) and voluntarily surrenders them to the state police: only then does the surrenderer have the option to get a pistol permit and take legal posession of them...the catch is that the guns must be surrendered BEFORE any state agents catch on.
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Old April 9, 2000, 08:31 PM   #8
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Ah... the joys of living in New York! In Suffolk County I had to list the name of a legal permit holder who would collect my guns at the time of my death on my application!

Geoff Ross
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Old April 9, 2000, 09:09 PM   #9
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I don’t like the fact that the state of NY received $30,000 of federal money. It is an age-old truth that if you accept money from someone then they can ask you for a return favor. Isn’t the federal government getting too involved here? Of course the state of NY probably petitioned this grant.

I have a simple solution for the problem. NO MORE REGISTRATION. It would save a lot of our money that could be used for things LIKE HUNTING DOWN VIOLENT CRIMINALS. Think of it – the manpower to register the guns, to keep up with them, to collect them etc. It is a lot of wasted money and time.

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Old April 9, 2000, 10:22 PM   #10
Nancy Siebern
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Now why does it take recalling 2 deputies to do the job of one man who wanted to be reassigned to this latest intrusion du jour?
And am I the only one appalled that funeral directors are now further burdening mourners of the deceased by barraging them with requests to turn in their family member's guns or else?
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Old April 10, 2000, 12:31 AM   #11
Jeff Thomas
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It seems to have never crossed Herrick's mind [a short journey, to be sure ... ] that the vast majority of these guns are doing exactly what they were intended to do ... serve as self defense weapons in the hands of honest civilians.

But, we must get that paperwork right, eh, Herr Herrick?

'Course, there may be an alternative explanation for these apparently long-lived permitees .... perhaps having a gun really does preserve life ...!

Ah, the stench of fascism seems to blowing in from both our eastern and western coasts.

Regards from AZ
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Old April 11, 2000, 01:31 PM   #12
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snif, snif is that fascism I smell??? Yep sure is. I wonder how they are going to find those guns. House to house??? It must be nice to have a job where you canb sit around and jerk o** all day. God forbid we go after rapists and murderers and such, that could be dangerous.

Who spilled that water on the slippery slope???

"Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes."
-R.A. Heinlein
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Old April 11, 2000, 01:55 PM   #13
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So, let's see. John Doe passes quietly in his sleep one night. The family takes care of business and his gun is given to his daughter from Florida when she arrives for the funeral. She takes it home to Florida with her within the fifteen-day window.

There are no other living relatives in the household. So our intrepid under-employed police officer puts the gun in a federal database as a contraband weapon, despite the fact that the weapon is legally owned in the state of Florida. THIS could get fun.
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Old April 11, 2000, 02:17 PM   #14
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This one has quite a few gems.

-How does a gun suddenly get "onto the streets" from someone's home, once the person dies?

-"Duh" factor high: The cop's not going to go door to door asking for the guns. That'd be a good way to catch some unwanted lead.

--I receive a letter: "Turn in Joe Blow guns if he's dead". Okey dokey. I'm all over it. No need to reply, explaining about cold dead fingers, etc. - Just ignore the letter.

-What does a "Criminal History Arrest Information Reporting System" have anything to do with a register of CCW license holders?

-The guy/son (i.e. criminal) who "broke into" the lady's home and stole a handgun - so what - I suppose it would be impossible for him to steal the gun if the license holder was still alive???

We're seeing the pre-cursor to full registration and gov't tracking of all guns everywhere in the U.S. That would definitely NOT happen in OK - YET. So far, we have the common sense to realize that if someone dies, a handgun passes either testate or intestate to the right bequestees/heirs, and believe it or not, this can happen quite smoothly without government involvement, thank you very much. Freakin' communist bastards.
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Old April 11, 2000, 04:34 PM   #15
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No flames, please, but I'm beginning to be thankful I "only" live in California, not Mass. or Maryland or N.Y.

That's pretty sad, even to me. Used to think they had some sense back east there.

As for this police force's priorities, it proves that, for some, having a government job is the next best thing to having no job at all.
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Old April 11, 2000, 05:59 PM   #16
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A monumental waste of resources. Questionable judgement at best.
WAAAY to intrusive.
WAAAY to "Big Brotherish."

Just think, those detectives/deputies could be out impacting crime...

[This message has been edited by Erik (edited April 11, 2000).]
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Old April 11, 2000, 10:42 PM   #17
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There is no provision in NCIC for recording "missing" guns. Only recovered guns, or stolen guns. So they must be entering guns as stolen without a signed stolen report, which is against NCIC rules.

This little program is utterly offensive. How did the east coast get so freaked-up?

"Anyone feel like saluting the flag which the strutting ATF and FBI gleefully raised over the smoldering crematorium of Waco, back in April of ‘93?" -Vin Suprynowicz

[This message has been edited by deanf (edited April 11, 2000).]

[This message has been edited by deanf (edited April 11, 2000).]
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Old April 11, 2000, 11:03 PM   #18
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Disgusting. It's all been said already. I heard about this on the radio and meant to post it, but I didn't know your guns had to be turned in upon your death!
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Old April 11, 2000, 11:51 PM   #19
Blue Jays
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Good Evening Everyone-

Here's the real scary part:

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>That means tracking down the gun owners' survivors and asking for weapons that they're illegally holding - often unwittingly.

State law requires relatives of a pistol license holder to turn in that person's handguns within 15 days of his or her death. If the guns remain in the home, it's a misdemeanor. Most people don't know about the law, Herrick said. But they don't have to fear his knock on their door.[/quote]

So now, when your family is in the middle of bereavement, they have to worry about "how" they are answering invasive questions about your 100% legal property?

That is SICK! I'll have to "coach" my family on how to comport themselves in the event of my untimely death....


~ Blue Jays ~

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Old April 12, 2000, 01:19 AM   #20
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DECEASED PISTOL PERMIT HOLDER TO TAKE THE HAND GUN TO A FEDERALLY LICENSED FIREARMS DEALER (called a gun shop) and put the gun on consignment for sale or sell the hand gun outright to the FFL dealer.

Then the New York State Police can not touch the gun. All that the CCW permit holders heir need do is show the officer or send him a photo copy of the reciept the heir gets from the FFL dealer.

-----------END OF PROBLEM!!!!!

I was wondering when you rocket scientists were going to catch on to this. Finally,I had to clue you all in on it.

If the heir wishes to keep the deciedent"s hand gun, again give it to the FFL gun shop
for consignment of sale back to the heir when the heir gets his New York state CCW permit.

This is meerly a contract that you make with the gun shop. It will usually cost no more that 45.oo for the gun shop to preform either
of the above services.

HINT: You can usually get more money by placing a gun on consignment for later sale by the gun shop to a ccw holder than by meerly selling the gun outright to the gun shop.

On a consignment sale, the gun shop does not pay you for the gun untill the gun is sold;
but the customer can set the sale price and the gun shop gets a $40.oo to 50.oo sales commission, either from that sales price or over that sales price.

Setting the price too high will iesure that the gun never sells or thkes yeras to sell.
The gun shop dealer will usually help you set a realistic sales price.

Sometimes, it pays to spend 12.oo to have your gun apprased because there is no law saying that the gun dealer has to pay you what the gun is worth or has to advise you of the top dollar value of the gun.

It is legal and lawfull for him to buy your 700.oo gun for 100.oo if the heir is dumb enough to agree to it. Or for 50.oo if he wants to be a stinker and then resell it for 650.oo to make himself a 600.oo profit.

Before you die ,you can make arraingements for a FFL gun shop to handle arraingements for selling your gun collection upon your death.


This way, you non shooting heir can at least get money; instead of just handing
guns to cops to be destroyed or more likely ;
end up in some cop's freebe gun collection.

Don't laugh,it happens often! Cops come across all sorts of guns, under many circumstances, and not all of them get turned in for destruction. The expensive guns get "lost" or replaced by junk guns on the way to the smelting furnace
and find their way, via police car, to a gun show.

An outright sale to the gun shop makes the FFL dealer have to pay for the gun immediately ,out of his pocket and then wait
6 months to a year or longer for the gun to sell, before he can recover his expenditure;
so, he will offer you much less that the gun is worth to make up for tieing up of his capitol until the gun sells.

This is why you can usually net more from a consignment sale, although you do need to wait for your money. Make sure to get a writen reciept stating the terms of the contract and make photo copies incase you misplace the original.
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Old April 12, 2000, 01:49 AM   #21
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Terrible. I don't care for even the way Ernest2 said it could be done. This is wrong and a waste of tax money and officer time. I wonder about that Florida idea.

" There are no other living relatives in the household. So our intrepid under-employed police officer puts the gun in a federal database as a contraband weapon, despite the fact that the weapon is legally owned in the state of Florida. THIS could get fun."

So the daughter in Florida gets a CCP "And lets say her state requires you to list by serial # all guns you plan to carry" So the serial # goes into computer and comes up stolen. She gets arrested and odds are will have a heck of a time getting a CCP. I have always filled out 4473 and gone through FFLs even thou in Minnesota I wouldn't have to for private sales. Now I regret going super legal.
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Old April 12, 2000, 04:42 AM   #22
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Don't worry, everybody. I posted a topic a few weeks back essentially asking if we could trust our local law enforcement officers if gun control/registration/confiscation came to pass and I was assured by police apologists we have nothing to worry about. I was told the only people worth worrying about were those from the alphabet agencies (ATF, FBI, etc.).

Well, I guess that wasn't quite true, was it?

Although a policeman is not necessarily your enemy, he's not really your friend, either. He'll do what he's tasked to do by idiotic lawmakers, or I doubt he'll be a cop long.

Contrary to what you may think, I'm not anti-police; cops serve a useful role in society, even if I don't back all of the areas they work at policing. But stories like this should remind everyone just who cops work for.

Reading "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal," by Ayn Rand, should be required of every politician and in every high school.
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Old April 12, 2000, 05:06 AM   #23
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ernest2: I'm not a rocket scientist, I'm a brain surgeon. There is a huge difference.

"Anyone feel like saluting the flag which the strutting ATF and FBI gleefully raised over the smoldering crematorium of Waco, back in April of ‘93?" -Vin Suprynowicz
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Old April 12, 2000, 06:30 PM   #24
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DAL, I know what you're saying. I like cops, every third home in my neighborhood is owned by a cop, and I'm glad they're there. But, if
the worst ever happens, they have to consider their choices like everyone else. They have wives, kids, mortgages, loans and all the other worries, just like the rest of us. How many are sufficiently pro-2nd to endanger the welfare of their families? I don't even want to guess.

It's the same problem that some of the German soldiers faced at the death camps in WWII:
defy and be killed, or take care of home and hearth. I have no doubt whatsoever that many, if not most, of those soldiers were good men
who despised what they were ordered to do.

I guess the best approach is to "take out" the despots before it gets that far. Politically, I mean.

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