Whenever police are asked about where illegal guns come from, they talk about them coming in from other states with limited or no sales restrictions or sales at gun shows. They also talk about guns stolen after deaths or when the owner is in a hospital or nursing home. Now there is a push to make sure unguarded guns become guarded.
It's not an unusual situation. A gun owner dies or becomes disabled and his or her guns are at home and possibly in a gun safe. Someone finds out the guns are there and are available. There's a break-in and more guns enter the illegal market.
That's why New York State is putting money into a program paying local police and deputy sheriffs to work with relatives and funeral directors to prevent that.
"One thing you can do is if you know somebody in my family who owns guns or your neighbor or somebody that you have contact with, if something happens to that neighbor or something is going to happen to those relatives, do what you can to make sure those guns don't fall into the wrong hands. Maybe it means calling the police. Maybe it means calling relatives," said Acting Erie County District Attorney Michael Flaherty.
Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard has two deputies working on the problem full-time under that state grant. There are also Buffalo Police officers working with families and funeral directors to keep the guns safe and transferred to new legal owners.
"To be a responsible gun owner doesn't just mean how you're handling the gun, but what are you doing with the gun when it's not in your hands. Is it being safely stored? Are you aware? Are you inventorying your firearms? Do you know where they are? But, obviously to leave a gun behind where it could fall into anyone's hands is an irresponsible act," Howard said.