Sunday, January 16, 2000

Police fighting confiscated gun law

Some want to keep destroying weapons

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Police officials are taking aim at a state law requiring them to sell confiscated guns rather than destroy them.

        Police administrations in Louisville, Lexington and elsewhere have been chaffing under the law since it quietly slipped through the 1998 session as part of an anti-crime bill.

        Some, like the Louisville Police Department, have simply refused to comply.

        “Most of the guns we seize were used to commit crimes. To recycle those guns and put them back on the street is a minor absurdity,” said Officer Aaron Graham, spokesman for the Louisville Police Department.

        Those opposed to the law have enlisted seven urban lawmakers to allow police to resume destroying confiscated guns.

        “All our bill says is that the decision should be left up to local law-enforcement officials,” said Rep. Eleanor Jordan, D-Louisville, a co-sponsor of the measure.

        “Whether they auction off the guns, whether they destroy them, whether they do something else with them, that should be up to the police,” Ms. Jordan said. “In urban areas, though, I think we agree we want them destroyed.”

        The sponsor of the auctions provision, Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, said police have no right to destroy confiscated guns. Once the guns are seized, they become property of the taxpayers.

        “Going out and cutting up a legal state asset that a citizen could buy is a misuse of public property,” Mr. Damron said.

        Under Mr. Damron's law, the money raised by selling guns to licensed gun dealers would buy bulletproof vests and other body armor for local police departments.

        The Kentucky State Police supplied 214 guns for one auction in August, at which $33,800 was raised. Kentucky police departments seize up to 8,000 guns annually, Mr. Dam ron said.

        Mr. Damron predicted that the bill, which was referred to the House Local Government Committee, would not survive the General Assembly.

        “It might get through the House, but I don't see it passing the Senate, which is more conservative than it used to be,” he said.

        Ms. Jordan agreed, saying she's already gotten letters from gun enthusiasts calling it a veiled gun control measure.

        “But I think this is something gun owners should support. We're saying each local government should be able to handle this as they wish without the state government mandating one policy statewide,” Ms. Jordan said.


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