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Most gun owners are cognizant of the strict regulations concerning ownership of a firearm. However, their family members and heirs are often unaware of the laws governing the disposition of a firearm when the gun owner dies. The NY Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act of 2013, enacted in response to the Sandy Hook shootings and the murder of two fire fighters in Webster, New York, amended many of New York’s laws to provide stricter regulations, including guidelines and timeframes for safeguarding firearms after a gun owner has passed away. But in practice, do the new laws leave family members and heirs at risk of criminal liability?

The SAFE Act

The SAFE Act created a statewide database to track people who were issued gun licenses, closed loopholes regarding private gun sales, provided stricter gun storage requirements, and created more stringent penalties for people who are found guilty of illegally using or possessing a gun. S. 2230 (2013), http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S2230-2013. The act established a statewide electronic license and record database which allows for regular matching by the state against records of prohibited persons (e.g., those with criminal histories, orders of protection, and mental illnesses that bar gun ownership and licensing) as well as against other databases, such as death records.

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