A growing number of state laws encourage or require police departments to sell the firearms that officers confiscate, putting them back on the streets.
A CNN Money analysis of state laws found that at least 11 states have adopted such laws since 2009. Some of those laws go so far as to ban police from destroying confiscated guns, CNN reports:
While it’s hard to track exactly how many states have historically pushed police departments to sell seized guns, agencies in only a few states were actually forced to sell them prior to 2009.
The 11 states are:
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- West Virginia
Special interest groups like the National Rifle Association have influenced the states’ laws, according to CNN. NRA spokesperson Amy Hunter tells CNN:
“Police destruction of firearms is unnecessary and wasteful. There is no reason any police department can’t resell those firearms to law-abiding citizens and use the money for any number of things — infrastructure, law enforcement training, equipment, etc.”
Some law enforcement officials disagree with the NRA and the practice of reselling confiscated firearms in general because of the safety risk. CNN’s analysis found at least four instances of guns sold by police departments later being used in serious crimes, including three against police officers.
Chattanooga (Tennessee) Chief of Police Fred Fletcher tells CNN:
“My job is to keep my officers safe. To send them out to face the same guns they risked their lives to get off the street is a big concern.”
One of the latest incidents in which a confiscated and resold firearm was later used against an officer occurred earlier this year in New Hope, Minnesota, the StarTribune newspaper reports.
A mentally unstable man reportedly walked into New Hope City Hall and shot two officers with a shotgun sold by the Duluth (Minnesota) Police Department.
Because of the shooter’s mental health history, he had been prohibited from owning guns, the StarTribune reports. So he ordered the shotgun from an online auction site and had a friend pick it up for him at a gun store. That is known as a “straw purchase” and it is illegal.
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