By Tom Blumer | For Ohio Watchdog
Ohio state Rep. John Becker, R-District 65, has a compelling idea to raise money for cash-strapped municipalities. Instead of destroying perfectly functional firearms, sell ‘em.
Becker, whose district encompasses the northwestern half of Clermont County in southwestern Ohio, notes most law enforcement agencies melt down guns seized from criminals once they are no longer needed as evidence.
A few decades ago, when I worked at a local foundry, the Cincinnati Police Department would from time to time bring such weapons in and watch as workers threw them into the blast furnaces. That practice seemed wasteful to me. Becker agrees.
Since then, as aversion to guns has grown in certain sectors, some cities have engaged in gunbuy-back programs to, in their minds, “get guns off the streets” and supposedly make conditions safer. Those guns suffer the same fate as the ones involved in crimes.
In House testimony on June 25, Becker made these accurate observations:
Firearms are property. When law enforcement agencies destroy firearms, they are destroying assets. At a time when budgets are tight, it makes no more sense to destroy firearms than it does to destroy office furniture, vehicles, computers, or other assets that are generally sold or auctioned off when they are no longer needed.
Destroying these or any guns does nothing to help a crime problem, and harms a law enforcement agency’s finances compared to auctioning them off.
House Bill 210, which is in the Transportation Committee, would ”require the sale to a federally licensed firearms dealer of all unclaimed or forfeited firearms and dangerous ordnance in the possession of a law enforcement agency that are legal for persons to possess, that are not used by an agency for police work, and that are not otherwise sold for sporting use or as a museum piece or collectors’ item.”
Of course, as is the case with any guns they sell, federally licensed dealers who purchase guns could only resell them to buyers who pass a federal background check.
The money involved isn’t going to solve county or municipal budget problems, but it’s not inconsequential. For example, in an April drug bust in northeastern Ohio, 55 firearms were seized. Conservatively assuming they were all relatively inexpensive handguns, each could be be auctioned, probably for at least $200, raising $31,000.
Becker points out that police departments could use the money obtained to ensure to purchase life-saving gear such as bulletproof vests.
Some pundits and law enforcement officials are not pleased with Becker’s idea. In fact, it’s fair to say that a few have gone ballistic. Over at the far-left fever swamp known as Daily Kos, Becker has earned the distinction of being called “R-Gun Nut.”
On Friday, Mark Naymik at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, wrote that Becker’s proposal “does absolutely nothing to advance the protection of gun rights.” Oh yes it does, Mark. It puts more used guns in the market for people who believe they need a gun to defend themselves but can’t afford to buy a new one.
Naymik quotes Cleveland Safety Director Marty Flask, a staunch opponent of Becker’s bill, who claims that his city’s gun buy-back program “takes hundreds of guns out of homes, which keeps them from getting stolen, a primary source of guns on the street.”
Flask still can conduct his buy-back program and take guns out of the hands of people who don’t want them. He just can’t destroy them. If he wants the guns out of Cleveland, it would appear that there’s nothing stopping him from selling them to a dealer in another less dangerous locale and using the money to beef up patrols to prevent break-ins.
Naymik did hint at a larger, valid point when he complained that”the .22-caliber Ruger handgun used by Chardon High School’s T.J. Lane to kill three classmates in 2012 “would get a second life while his victims do not.” It seems to me that, in the name of closure, murder victims’ immediate families ought to have a final say in whether the weapons involved in killing their loved ones get destroyed.
There’s also the matter of whether the guns involved in particularly infamous murders should be allowed to become collectibles for those who only covet morbid bragging rights.
In a conversation I had with him on Monday, Becker, while correctly observing that guns don’t commit such murders, said he was open to considering such provisions as possible amendments to his bill.
With those exceptions, I believe Becker is onto something, and that Ohio should pass an appropriately modified version of House Bill 210.
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