FILE 2011: Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance speaks as he stands with New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David Cohen, near weapons, ammunition and a hand grenade at a news conference.
Gun owners in New York City received notices in the mail about modifying their shotguns.
Jan. 14: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, center, speaks during a news conference announcing an agreement with legislative leaders on New York's Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act at the Capitol. (AP)
The New York City Police Department is taking aim at owners of certain shotguns and rifles, telling them all long guns with more than a five-round capacity must be turned in, altered or taken out of town.
The first option for the letter's recipient is to, "Immediately surrender your Rifle and/or Shotgun to your local police precinct, and notify this office of the invoice number. The firearm may be sold or permanently removed from the City of New York thereafter."
An estimated 500 recipients of the notices, which were mailed on Nov. 18, were given the options to surrender their gun, permanently move the gun out of city jurisdiction or employ a licensed gunsmith to modify the weapon to get into compliance with the law. Rifles and shotguns with a capacity of five or more rounds are affected.
An NYPD spokeswoman told FoxNews.com the initiative has been in practice since 2010.
But this year is the first time critics say the notices were so widely dispersed. The notice was first reported on the website TheTruthAboutGuns.com.
"These letters appear to be another example of the Nanny State. Hypothetically, it can start with a letter, and then that can lead to someone knocking on your door saying, 'I want to see your gun.'"
- New York State Assemblyman James Tedisco
New York State has the strictest gun laws in the country. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, has made it a priority of his to pull illegal handguns off the streets and directly links these guns to violent crimes. But critics say the real problem is illegal handguns in the hands of criminals, not long guns owned by law-abiding citizens.
"We think it's an abuse of power by the NYPD," said Tom King, the president ofNew York State Rifle & Pistol Association. His organization has fought with the state on various gun bills and spent $400,000 on a lawsuit challenging the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, or SAFE Act, which was signed in January by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The SAFE Act was the first law in the nation prompted by the December 2012 killing of 20 first-graders and six educators in Newtown, Conn. Its passage was seen as a victory for gun-control advocates because it expands a ban on military-style weapons, requires mental health professionals to report threats, limits magazines to seven bullets, taxes bullets and creates a registry.
Though these notices were not sent out as a direct result of the SAFE Act, New York State Assemblyman James Tedisco said the new law may embolden city police forces to send out similar letters.
Tedisco, who voted against the SAFE Act, said New York City had the five-round law in the books for about 20 years, but this is the first time he has heard complaints about the notices being sent out to gun owners.
"These letters appear to be another example of the Nanny State," Tedisco said. "Hypothetically, it can start with a letter, and then that can lead to someone knocking on your door saying, 'I want to see your gun.'"
When Cuomo signed the law, he searched for a moderate tone saying, "Common sense can win. You can overpower the extremists with intelligence and with reason and with common sense."
President Obama, who has called for the transformation of U.S. gun laws after recent high-profile shootings at the Washington Navy Yard, said that "the politics are difficult."
The Center for American Progress released a report in April linking states with 'weak' gun laws and a high level of gun violence.
The Second Amendment, says, "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
Gun advocates interpret that to mean individuals have the right to possess guns, while those opposed say the law is antiquated and its misinterpretation puts Americans in danger.
King said the author of these letters misfired when writing the guns could be modified.
"A gun collector who never fired a gun in his life, but has a few antiques might have to get them altered," he said. "These are not the people law enforcement should be targeting."