Police would be required to destroy rifles and shotguns that have been seized or abandoned rather than selling them to firearms dealers under a proposal being considered by the Spokane City Council.
The Spokane Police Department has sold 311 rifles and destroyed 1,245 handguns or illegal firearms since 2011, police spokeswoman Teresa Fuller said. The city already has prohibited the police department from selling handguns. All other firearms are sold to licensed dealers through a Post Falls auction company. The department currently has 56 guns pending auction.
Fuller said she did not know what types of weapons the police department sold during auctions and how many of them were obtained, but the Associated Press has reported that three of the weapons sold since 2011 were assault rifles.
City Councilwoman Candace Mumm is sponsoring the new local law. She acknowledged that destroying rifles would result in lost revenue, but reducing the availability of firearms was worth the price. Citing an Associated Press investigation from January that found more than a dozen weapons sold by police in Washington became evidence in new investigations, Mumm said she was concerned that some of the firearms sold to dealers could still be used to commit crimes again.
“I think the benefits outweigh the costs here,” she said.
According to city documents, the city receives about $8,400 annually from firearm sales.
She said she and other council members were not aware until a recent public safety meeting that the city’s current laws, which requires handguns police obtain to be destroyed, did not apply to rifles or shotguns.
The new ordinance would require police to destroy all types of guns that are obtained through investigations or forfeited for any other reason. It exempts antique firearms or guns police obtained before 1993. It also exempts guns that are unusual, or have been illegally modified so officers can use them for training.
Fuller said guns used in homicides are not sold at auction. Many of the other guns the department has are confiscated from felons, who are not allowed to own guns. She said all firearms sales are monitored by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and guns are auctioned to dealers, not individuals.
Councilman Mike Fagan, the sole conservative voice on the council, said he doesn’t like the idea of destroying guns, but the revenue loss is small enough that he isn’t concerned about destroying some firearms. He said his biggest concern, destroying antique rifles, had already been addressed.
The council is scheduled to vote on the proposal next Monday.
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