Monday, March 15, 2010
Guns don't kill people, people kill people ... after cops sell the gunsThe 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.