Some NC police departments stockpile guns instead of releasing them

Some NC police departments stockpile guns instead of releasing them

Editor’s note: This report is part of ongoing News & Observer and Charlotte Observer coverage of gun violence, its impact on families and communities, and relevant public policy.

More than 74,000.

How many guns are under lock and key in North Carolina’s 10 most populous cities Evidence in some criminal cases. But most are just warehoused, their numbers are increasing weekly.

Police searches for handguns, rifles and automatic weapons have been increasing over the years. The main reason is a 2013 North Carolina Law That essentially prohibits police from destroying most functional firearms.

The law, supported by gun rights advocates, allows law enforcement agencies to sell guns to licensed firearms dealers. But some officials in North Carolina’s most populous cities don’t want to do that for a variety of reasons.

Some police chiefs worry that these guns will end up in the hands of criminals at a time when firearms and bullets are already so common in their communities.

Many departments do not want to sell them back into circulation because they will see them being used again in other crimes,” said Fred Baggett, A lobbyist for North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police.

But bearing arms comes with challenges, incl Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Departmentwhich now houses over 25,000 firearms

“We’re in a critical situation,” said Charlotte Major Brad Koch..

Prior to the 2013 law, once relevant criminal cases were concluded, firearms that could not be returned to their owners could be destroyed.

Now, guns are moving from the evidence room to increased liability, writes Mike AllingerA Charlotte-Mecklenburg police spokeswoman said in an email to The News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer.

“When the number of firearms in stock increases weekly, so does the level of responsibility and accountability,” he wrote.

Store them or sell them?

No one keeps track of all the guns stored by police and sheriff’s departments in this state. But it’s no surprise that an N&O study documented that more than 74,000 firearms are now held in 10 cities. North Carolina Central Police Chief Damon Williams.

Williams Hall Immediate Past President North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police. That group recently voted, as in the past, to lobby the General Assembly to change the law, but Williams isn’t expecting much from that.

Williams, along with leaders in Durham, Fayetteville and Greensboro, supported the legislation to allow them to destroy weapons by seizing evidence rooms that aren’t equipped to handle the hundreds of gun flows each year.

“I’m always optimistic, but right now, I think it’s not very likely that we’ll be able to get some traction with it,” he said.

The 2013 legislation was passed and signed into law with bipartisan support Gov. Pat McCrory that June.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has more than 25,000 guns in storage that they are unable to dispose of.

Previous attempts to change the law In 2015, 2019And 2021 Failed in the Republican-led General Assembly.

“Some legislators think it’s wrong to destroy guns,” explained Baggett, the Association of Chiefs of Police lobbyist.

It includes Sen. Danny Britt, A Robeson County Republican known for bridging the bipartisan divide over criminal justice reform.

But Brits prefer little government control over firearms. he introduced the billThis year included, repealing pistol permits and allowing people with concealed carry permits to carry guns on school property after hours during religious services.

Saving or destroying 74,000 guns is not going to make our cities safer, he said. “People who want to get their hands on guns, are going to get their hands on guns,” he said.

Britt suggested that states set up an easy way for their departments to transfer weapons to an agency.

“For a sheriff’s department in my district, 74,000 guns could buy several squad cars,” he said.

difference of opinion

With more than 25,000 guns locked up, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has the largest stockpile of any city. Like other police departments, firearms are found or collected as evidence and kept for safekeeping, Allinger wrote in an email.

Box containing firearm stored as evidence at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

Box containing firearm stored as evidence at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

Storing 25,000 guns is also a drain on the city’s resources, as each firearm must be tracked and easily located in a location not designed for such numbers, he wrote.

The Greensboro facility was designed for about 3,000 guns, but they ended up with about 11,000 guns.

Police spokeswoman Josie Cambareri said it’s better than being used in street crimes.

“We want to be able to destroy any gun; The law just doesn’t allow it now,” Cambareri wrote.

Fayetteville, which has about 9,000 guns in storage, recently spent about $50,000 on a “rolling storage shelf” to store the extra weapons, Police Chief Gina Hawkins wrote in a statement to The News & Observer recently before retiring.

Last year, the Durham police chief asked for more than $80,000 to expand storage space, in part to accommodate about 8,400 guns. saved the city.

The Raleigh Police Department takes between 900 and 1,300 guns each year, according to information provided by Raleigh police spokesman Jason Borneo. It held about 7,227 at the end of last year, police said.

Some sell guns

Police departments in Cary, High Point and Concord sell their weapons.

Carrie has sold 47 in the past 12 months. The Concorde sold 296 in 2021 and 2022. High Point has sold 1,041 since 2014.

According to spokeswoman Victoria Ruvio, the guns seized by High Point police are transferred to Buds Police Supply FFL, a Kentucky-based business through an auction service, and sold through open bidding..

High Point Police track all guns that come into the department, and they have no known instances of a firearm being sold and then returned to their possession, Ruvio wrote.

Through the sale of approximately 902 police department guns, the Guilford County School Board received more than $65,800. The police department received about $10,000.

Raleigh Police Department officials did not respond to questions about whether and how many their department sells its guns. Nor did it answer questions about whether it supports legislation that would allow workers to destroy guns.

An image from a video shows some of the thousands of guns at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

An image from a video shows some of the thousands of guns at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

A tale of two police chiefs

Williams, who supports allowing North Carolina law enforcement to destroy guns, oversees public safety at NCCU in Durham. In 2022, there were approximately 46 homicides in Durham, Most of which are involved in shooting murders. More than two hundred people were shot.

Given the circumstances, Williams doesn’t understand why the request is controversial.

“We’re not talking about weapons that are classic collectibles,” he said, “we’re talking about guns used in violent crimes and various criminal incidents.”

Chiefs in more rural communities feel more comfortable selling guns, Williams said, while chiefs in big cities respond to shooting after shooting, they often don’t entertain the idea.

Chief Blair Myhand, who was elected president of the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police in January, leads the Hendersonville Police Department.

The department patrols a generally peaceful town south of Asheville with a population of about 15,000 In 2022, Hendersonville experienced zero homicides; No fewer than five people were shot.

Myhand, who describes himself as an “apathetic Second-Amendment person,” supports the current law. Gun rights advocates are concerned that a law allowing police departments to destroy guns would erode gun rights, Myhand said.

“There’s this fear, if the government passes a law that says you can destroy these firearms, that’s a crack in the ice,” he said.

Hendersonville traded its guns, and used the credit, $6,000 a year, to buy police equipment. “It saves our cities thousands of dollars a year,” he said.

MyHand doesn’t track the guns he sells, but said he’s confident in the process, he said.

Sellers only sell to law enforcement or wholesalers, he said. So guns must be sold legally. “No different than new guns sold now,” Myhand said.

Still, as president of the national association, Mihand said he would advocate for a change that would allow municipalities to decide.

He respects other chiefs’ concerns about putting guns seized in crimes back into circulation, though he doesn’t agree with them, he said. He also wants chiefs to have the tools they feel they need to serve their communities.

“I think we lead on a community level, and so every community is different,” he said.

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