Question of the Day: Should Cops Sell Guns?

Cop shops confiscate hundreds of guns a month in their localities as evidence in crime investigations. What happens after that is all over the board. Everything from death by smelter to trading them to dealers for duty guns to resale to the law-abiding public. The question of what to do with the heaters in Nashville is, um, heating up. It’s illegal to destroy the guns in the volunteer state but the NPD doesn’t want to let them go. As a result, they’re building up a good sized inventory. Some victims’ families attach talisman-like properties to guns used to kill, demanding they go down like Arnold in Terminator 2. But in places like Kentucky, auctioned arms bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars. Cash that comes in pretty handy in an age of austerity. Why shouldn’t police departments sell the guns back to citizens? You got a problem wit dat?


  1. avatar Ryan Finn says:

    I don’t see why they shouldn’t. Police departments auction off other property they seize like cars and bikes. Why not sell off some of these guns that are taking up space? I would however like to see the funds donated to a worthy charity instead of being used to buy the SWAT team that APC they “need”.

    1. avatar Vincit Veritas says:

      Yeah that money should not being going to the police department budget- their financial evaluation should be made independent of the value of the property they seize. There could be some kind of victims fund, or the money can go back into the town/city’s general coffer.

  2. avatar Vincit Veritas says:

    They do it to coke houses, coke speedboats, coke jets, coke cars. Destroying valuable property that someone else wants to buy is stupid.

    However, I would be very, VERY cautious buying a weapon used in a crime as I have absolutely no faith in their ability to properly catalog the sale and somehow I’d end up being arrested.

    1. avatar Derek says:

      That would definitely be a worry of mine. I’d want a signed reciept and affidavit from the PD saying when the gun was sold and that all pending investigations involving that gun were closed.

  3. avatar Slick Nick says:

    How would a gun with a destroyed serial number be handled?

    1. avatar Bob H says:

      It would have to be destroyed. Even the gov can’t transfer a gun without a serial number.

      1. avatar Derek says:

        Maybe they’d restamp it? Go throught the ATF maybe? Of course, that might be more trouble than the couple hundred bucks is worth.

  4. avatar Bob H says:

    They should be sold on a consignment basis Maybe 15%-20% to the FFL, through randomly chosen (name out of a hat) dealers with a different dealer every month. Or at open public auction with an NICS check.

    Considering how badly most cops do in a shootout they should spend the money on required shooting training.

    1. avatar Ben Eli says:

      Public auctions are the way to go. The biggest police auctions in my area is for seized cars, abandoned cars, and old squad cars sans lights and sirens. What doesn’t get sold I believed gets donated to Salvation Army.
      I have a feeling that donated these guns to the SA would be a bad idea. But I do like the prospects of finding a Sig in the bargain bin.

  5. avatar garynyer says:

    or they could return them to their orginal owners?

    1. avatar Bob H says:

      That might work if they can find the original owners. It is very difficult to identify who the last legal owner was when you are dealing with a seized gun. Most criminals aren’t exactly forthcoming about where their gun came from, and it has probably passed through a number of hands since it was originally legally purchased. That is why most states have laws which allow the state to seize guns used in a crime.

      1. avatar Scott says:

        Just to add. Its also very hard to return a stolen item if the owner either never reported it stolen in the 1st place, or never recorded the serial number with make and model.

        Take the aftermath of Katrina for instance where guns were confiscated. Aside from the fact that they never should have been seized to begin with, many weren’t returned simply because the serial number was never written down and few receipts were handed to citizens. It is very difficult to verify ownership by description alone. And of course even more difficult to be compensated without the serial number and/or a receipt ‘if’ the item was ‘lost’ in transit to the police station.

        We should all have serial numbers with make and model recorded somewhere. I use ‘gun safe’ which is an Apple app. If one is ever in a situation where a firearm is confiscated get a receipt with serial number clearly written on it. And include the serial number when reporting a stolen gun.

  6. avatar Cigr says:

    My biggest concern with letting them sell the guns is that it gives them a cash incentive to confiscate the guns in the first place, which could lead to abuse.

  7. avatar Jerry says:

    Yeah, return to the owner. My son’s Bersa was stolen. They arrested a 19yo two towns away carrying it. He would like to have it back. They know they have it as a friend in the police dept told him about it.

  8. avatar Aaron says:

    In Arizona police are required by law to sell confiscated guns after the criminal case is disposed, providing that the weapon isn’t hazardous to use or bears an obliterated serial number.
    In my area a fellow apparently used fake police credentials to get around NYS’ complex process for acquiring handguns. He was found out, and of course will lose all of his gun rights forever. He had some awesome stuff in his collection, and I’m sure that all of those items will simply be destroyed once he’s been sentenced by the courts.

  9. avatar karlb says:

    I agree with selling those that have not been returned to their owners after having been stolen. One huge exception would seem logical, though: melt down any gun which has been used to shoot someone. While the original author used the “talisman-like” phrase when talking about the victims’ families, I think it goes beyond that. Think Willie Horton (the felon, not the Detroit Tigers’ slugger). Any gun used in another shooting after it had been sold by the police would create quite a public relations nightmare.

  10. avatar Brad Kozak says:

    Perhaps they should look into exporting them. I hear there’s a big demand for guns (practically a river of demand) South of the border. And it looks as though the Mexican customers’ primary suppliers may be experiencing some supply chain difficulties, and there may be a real need to look for alternative sources. This scheme would net the Nashville PD some much-needed funds, and satisfy the NIMBY urges of both the police and the gun-grabbers. It’s a win-win for everybody (except the citizens of Mexico).

    1. avatar TL671 says:

      The federal government would never allow it, they hate competition.

  11. avatar Chris Dumm says:

    Cops seem to seize (since bad guys seem to like) a lot of hacksawed shotguns. No matter which agency is proudly displaying their loot, there are always some Mad Max conversions on the table.

    And BB guns. Many cops either don’t know the difference, or assume that we don’t either.

  12. avatar Dave lussier says:

    Problem with that. Guns which have been used to murder need to be put down like bad dogs they are inherently evil. Imagin the thought of learning that your wife/son/daughter was murdered with the same weapon that killed the jones family. Or that the weapon was used in a shooting that just paralyzed someone, this time it got the kill. Granted with a high body count they might go for big bucks on eBay, and have gangsters fighting for the right to carry the piece, but do we really want that headline. Perhaps in rural communities where guns are seized for reasons other than being used in a crime, what those reasons would be I dont know. Being a retired capital city cop I say with no hesitation. Weapons used in violent criminal acts have no business being put back on the street, police departments are not jn the business of selling arms. Is the military? Anyone interested in buying the RPG and AK’s that took down that chopper last week. Or the guns uses jn Denmark on those school kids. In providence RI when we’re done with the weapons we melt them down, plain and simple.

    1. avatar I_Like_Pie says:

      Actually I would. The Gun that Booth used to shoot Lincoln fetches a pretty penny on the market.
      …So would the son of Sam gun

      On the other hand…they are just machines and nothing more. Can’t separate the emotional attachment with some people.

  13. avatar Dave lussier says:

    PS stolen guns are returned to the owner here

  14. avatar Ralph says:

    Give the guns away to people who are less fortunate. Poor people should be able to defend themselves, too.

  15. avatar TL671 says:

    I don’t get the question, how do you intend to stop them. Whether or not their particular department is selling guns, cops always have and always will sell guns they’ve “confiscated”/stolen, I have had several firearms “confiscated” on multiple occasions, that a judge later said had been taken illegally, but amazingly the department had no record of them having ever been put into “evidence”. They keep the ones they like, they sell all the rest.

  16. avatar Scott says:

    Inanimate object just like anything else. Good and Evil implications do not apply. Sell them at some auction house and either use the funding to help victims, or to offset department costs.

  17. avatar Carl says:

    Why not auction them off? Regardless of how some people look at it the gun didn’t cause the crime. Selling it at auction if it can’t be returned to the original owner can put needed funds in the police department. And give the gun a chance to go to a loving home.

  18. avatar DonWorsham says:

    I would prefer they do a raffle. Five tickets for four dollars. Proceeds to charity.

  19. avatar Jimulacrum says:

    I say sell ’em. We shouldn’t be acting on the irrational impulses of victims and their relatives to destroy perfectly viable firearms (or even broken firearms with usable parts). They should do the same thing with the guns that they do with everything else they confiscate. If the gun is banned in that state, sell it in another state. It’ll go a long way toward staving off police layoffs, too.

  20. avatar Joe Grine says:

    One of my AR-15s was recovered by the police and returned to me (via my insurance company) seven years after it was stolen out of my car. So I can attess to the fact that serial number traces do work. I don’t even think the rifle had been fired in that seven years, because their was no carbon buildup under the extractor, and back then it was not all that common for AR-15 owners to routinely clean behind the extractor. As for Police selling confiscated guns, I say “hell yes.” That’s how I acquired my mint-condition P-64. Also, I have many other “liberated” guns in my collection that were originally police confiscations – back in the day cops would sometime give them to a me and a friend of mine, since we used to clean up their range for them, etc. Having said that, MOST guns cops confiscate that are not returned to rightful owners aren’t really worth keeping – you would be surprised at all the low-end crap that is out there.

  21. avatar rt66paul says:

    Personally, I do not think they should profit from anything that they take. Most of what is taken should go back to the person, or prove it was bought with illegal money. The government just takes it when someone goes to jail, the hell with his family.
    If a forensic accountant can not prove that illegal money bought the items, then they should go to a charity that the sentenced picks, not sold so the department can profit. Does anyone see a problem here? In the recent past, feds have gone after people because they wanted their land, other times it was politicans that personally wanted the property. This is wrong, wrong, wrong.
    If those guns are legal, they should go back to the family. If illegal, back to the person that bought it. If the gun has the numbers filed off, destroy it, but only those. If they can not be traced, use them for training or make a museam at the po po acadamy.
    Even the appearence of impropiety should never happen. LE should be squeaky clean.

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