In an effort to curb public misinformation, authorities are hoping to raise awareness about state gun-amnesty laws.

Senior Investigator Christopher Keniston, who heads the State Police Troop B Gun Investigation Unit, said residents sometimes find themselves in possession of illegally owned firearms.

But, he said, there's a process that can be taken to make the gun legal.

NO PROSECUTION

No matter the circumstance, New York law allows a person in possession of an illegal firearm to surrender it to a law-enforcement agency without fear of prosecution.

Legal gun ownership is a primary focus of the Gun Unit, which already, as if June this year, had seized 117 guns that were either illegally possessed or involved in a crime.

"We try to seek enforcement and ensure there is compliance with state and federal laws," Keniston said.

NY PERMIT NEEDED

He said that many illegally possessed guns are obtained through seemingly innocent circumstances, such as through family inheritance or a move here from out of state, with owners unaware that they're violating New York law.

New York does not recognize out-of-state gun permits and requires valid state permits for all handguns.

Keniston said the amnesty program helps get those types of guns "lawfully registered and ultimately into the hands of someone who can (legally) have it."

It also prevents the guns from falling into the hands of criminals.

TURNING IN GUNS

Most law-enforcement agencies have certain conditions to surrender weapons, usually including advanced phone or written notice before a gun is brought to a station, he said.

They also often require that the weapons be unloaded and in an enclosed container.

Officials would provide a receipt for the firearm and then investigate its origin to ensure it's not stolen or associated with a crime.

To aid the investigation, those surrendering weapons are asked to provide as much information about the guns as possible, such as old pistol permits, original invoices or shipping containers, if possible.

Surrendered firearms will not be destroyed unless the person dropping it off specifically requests that.

Otherwise, after police determine the weapon's origin, they can store it for up to a year, allowing time for owners to either apply for a New York State Pistol Permit or otherwise legally dispose of the gun, such as transferring it to a licensed dealer for sale.

If no action is taken after a year, the gun can be declared nuisance property and destroyed.

GUN COLLECTIONS

Another aspect of ownership that is encouraged, Keniston said, is meticulous documentation of gun collections.

"We always encourage people to secure their guns in their residence and document by make, model and serial number, because that's been an ongoing problem."

But, he said, that problem has seemed to improve in recent years as a result of the unit's aggressive campaign to improve community awareness and education.

In the event of gun thefts, Keniston said, "we're much more likely to recover the weapon if it's been documented."

He said the unit can supply a personal-firearms record form to help with collection documentation.

Those interested in obtaining the form can call 897-2093.

E-mail Andrea VanValkenburg at: avanvalkenburg@pressrepublican.com

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