Each month, IAPE's primary instructor, Joe Latta, answers one of your questions. Consider writing us if you have a question that needs an answer. We would love to hear from you.
Need some help. We have been hording guns awaiting destruction for years and no one will make a decision on what to do with them. One of the Commanders wants to auction them off and another wants to destroy. Do you have any advice?
Dear M Gunn,
In most states, the practice is perfectly legal but auctioning firearms can have some unintended consequences. If the gun is legally sold via a licensed firearms dealer, could it end up being used in a future crime and traced back to your community? When this happens there could be a tremendous backlash against the department for allowing. The backlash in many cases may be geographically driven. When I say geographically, a rural area may not see the issue the same as in a high density urban neighborhood. When the decision is made, the decision makers need to know how the community views the sale of firearms.
During a recent audit, I was asked by a chief about the practice of selling guns. He was new to the agency and personally opposed the practice of selling firearms even though it was perfectly legal. It should be noted that when he became chief, the Property Room had over 500 gun with a significant dollar value if sold. The City Manager had told the chief that most of the council members were in favor of the action and needed to proceed.
Since my advice was asked, I simply recommend that the chief have the City Attorney author a resolution for Council action to allow the sale with the approval of the City Council. Several weeks later when the resolution was on the counsel's agenda, the Chief made a quick pitch in support of the action for their vote. Remember, he was not in favor of the action. Prior to stepping away from the lectern in the council chambers, the Chief stated, "Just a cautionary note when you vote you need to be aware that the gun is being traded to a firearms dealer and the gun could possible be sold and later used in another crime and linked back to the City's sale of the gun and end up with negative publicity." The Chief stepped away from the lectern and the city council then voted. The vote was 4 - 1 against the sale. The politicians wanted the income but not the possibility of the negative press.
To answer your question, the sale generally become the philosophy of the department and sometime the city council. Any action should be memorialized in department policy. IAPE doesn't take a position since the decision is very much a political and geography issue.
After receiving the question regarding guns, I found a pertinent story about selling guns and have posted below.
Washington City ends gun sales by police
after AP probe
SEATTLE - The City Council in Spokane, Washington, has passed an ordinance prohibiting police from selling confiscated firearms, citing an Associated Press investigation that found that some guns sold by law enforcement were used in new crimes.
"Disposing of long guns and assault rifles is a sensible approach," Councilwoman Candace Mumm told The Associated Press in an email after the 6-1 vote on Monday night. "Instead of spending time recycling weapons, our police staff can get back to the primary mission of solving crimes and protecting the public."
The Spokane Police Department has sold 311 firearms since 2011, spokesman Officer John O'Brien said. The AP investigation went back to 2010, which included 25 sold that year and brought Spokane's total to 336 since 2010. The department sold its confiscated long guns through an auction house in Post Falls, Idaho, he said. The agency had been destroying forfeited handguns under an ordinance passed in 1993.
The Spokane City Council is the second political entity to order a ban on law enforcement gun sales, citing the AP's investigation into 6,000 guns sold by law enforcement between 2010 and 2017.
The Metropolitan King County Council passed an ordinance on Oct. 2 that prohibits the sheriff's office from selling forfeited firearms.
"While the practice of selling these firearms back into private hands is legal, a yearlong Associated Press analysis published in January 2018 found more than a dozen firearms sold by law enforcement agencies in Washington since 2010 later became evidence in new criminal investigations," the council said in its report supporting the ordinance. "The report noted that weapons auctioned by the Washington State Patrol, Kitsap, Pierce and Thurston counties and the Aberdeen, Bonney Lake and Longview police departments were used in the commission of crimes or to commit suicide."
The King County Sheriff's office has been destroying forfeited guns, but the ordinance ensures that practice continues, Council Chair Joe McDermott said.
The guns sold by Spokane police included Winchester .22-caliber rifles, Remington 12-gauge shotguns, a Colt AR-15, a Bulgarian-made AK47-style rifle, a "Romar assault rifle" and several Norinco SKS, 7.62 x 39 mm semi-automatic rifles. One of the Norincos sold for $180, according to police records.
Between 2011 and 2018, the forfeited firearms sales generated $16,787, according to the ordinance. The sales ranged from $633 to about $7,488 in any given year, the ordinance said.
"The books show just a few thousand dollars a year are netted out after paying for the auction fees and the 10 percent fee to the state," Mumm said before the vote. "This amount does not take into account the expenses that are incurred by the police department for staff time to secure, catalog, process, transport and document the weapons. Nor does it account for the trade and fund balances.
"We may actually be costing the city coffers by reselling and recycling the guns."
Several members of the public spoke against the ordinance based on their support for the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. But Phyllis Holmes, who was on the Spokane City Council when it passed the original measure requiring the destruction of handguns, supported the plan.
When the council passed that ordinance 6-1 in 1993, it conveyed the panel's "determination to reduce the level of violent crime associated with firearms," Holmes said. "Circumstances were a little different then. We didn't see on the streets the kinds of weapons that we now see."
"It has troubled me the past few years that we didn't include all guns," Holmes said. "We perhaps weren't thinking forward enough in terms of what might happen. Passage of this measure tonight would bring consistency to our position on the management of confiscated weapons."
Without further discussion, the council passed the ordinance, which states: "The City of Spokane intends to do all it can to prevent and reduce violent crime in Spokane and has determined that destroying all seized or forfeited firearms rather than reselling them to the public or to gun dealers is a simple, sensible and effective way to reduce access to firearms and help reduce and prevent gun violence."
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