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March 15, 2010

Guns don't kill people, people kill people ... after cops sell the guns

The cheeky title of this post is inspired by this new story reporting on the backstory of two guns used in two recent high-profile shootings.  The news account is headlined "Memphis police, Shelby sheriff's office sold guns used in high-profile shootings," and here is how it begins:

Two guns used in high-profile shootings at the Pentagon and a Las Vegas courthouse both came from the police and court system of Memphis.

Law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that one of the weapons in the Pentagon attack was seized by Memphis police from a convicted felon in a 2005 traffic stop and later traded to a gun dealer.  And they said the shotgun used in the Jan. 4 courthouse shooting in Las Vegas was sold by a judge's order and the proceeds were given to the Shelby County Sheriff's Office.

In both cases, the weapons first went to licensed gun dealers but later came into the hands of men who were legally barred from possessing them -- one a convicted felon, the other mentally ill.

The use of guns that once were in police custody and then involved in attacks on police officers highlights a little-known divide in gun policy in the United States.  While some cities and states destroy guns gathered in criminal probes, others sell or trade the weapons to get other guns or buy equipment.

In fact, on March 4, the day of the Pentagon shooting, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen signed legislation removing the option of destroying confiscated guns, unless they are unsafe or don't work, and directing that the proceeds of such court-ordered gun sales go to law enforcement instead of a city or county's general fund.

March 15, 2010 at 09:24 AM | Permalink

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Comments

The sad part is, presuming that they are not otherwise illegal or untraceable, the policy of selling guns and using the proceeds for police work actually makes a whole lot more sense than destroying them.

Unfortunately, the profit motive of unscrupulous gun dealers strikes again. So how about this modest proposal: hold gun dealers criminally liable for selling guns to crazies who kill people? I'll bet you those background checks won't be ignored in the future...

Posted by: Res ipsa | Mar 15, 2010 12:07:07 PM

What "unscrupulous gun dealers" do you see in the article?

There is nothing in the article to suggest the guns were purchased by either suspect from a licensed dealer. One handgun was apparently fraudulently purchased out of state from a private party seller, the shotgun and other handgun were apparently not bought from a licensed dealer either, as BATFE traced the 4473's and they didn't end with a suspect's name.

This once again verifies multiple FBI studies of the past 20 years on gun acquisition by criminals. The number of guns used in crime purchased from private parties (gun shows) or fraudulently from licensed dealers totals something in the (low) single digits of all guns used in crime. You don't (rationally) make policies that unjustly impact millions of law-abiding people (especially involving a fundamental civil right) on the basis of a few statistical outliers.

Further, it isn't illegal to be "mentally ill" and purchase or possess firearms (which is good considering the ever-growing size of the DSM). The law states you cannot have been adjudicated mentally defective or involuntarily committed. If the cops can't do it (which the family apparently requested in the case of one shooter) then the responsibility lies on the family to go further up the chain if they see a problem, which they didn't.

Posted by: Matthew Carberry | Mar 15, 2010 3:45:34 PM

The fact that law enforcement agencies now have a profit motive for seizing the property of citizens should disgust anyone who doesn't regularly lick the boots of authority. Human nature being what it is, why is anyone surprised about the end result of these weapons? The citizenry is considered by the government-and its gun-barrel enforcers, apparently--to be little more than a source of cash flow.

Posted by: Mark # 1 | Mar 15, 2010 10:04:11 PM

"The fact that law enforcement agencies now have a profit motive for seizing the property of citizens should disgust anyone who doesn't regularly lick the boots of authority. Human nature being what it is, why is anyone surprised about the end result of these weapons?"

Is this an acknowledgement that some people's nature is to be violent and cruel to their fellow creatures? And that jail might be a good place for such folks?

Mark # 1, you are making progress.

"The citizenry is considered by the government-and its gun-barrel enforcers, apparently--to be little more than a source of cash flow."

I see where you're coming from, but I think your wording is a mite harsh for the IRS.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 16, 2010 2:40:03 AM

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