The Seattle Police Department made national news just last month when it held a gun buyback program where citizens traded firearms for Amazon.com gift cards and pro gun citizens showed up to offer cash money for firearms. The Department's policy is then to destroy all firearms turned in.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn complained about citizens purchasing firearms out side the event saying, “One person can sell another person a gun on the street and it’s absolutely legal. Do you see anybody out there doing a background check?” McGinn added that this is "one of the loopholes we need to close.”
Ironically studies show that gun buybacks are nothing more than political theater. Seattle's gun murder rate actually increased after it's last buyback program in 1992. But now King 5 News has reported on the fact that Washington police in Auburn, Hoquiam and Fife, as well as Sheriff's Departments in Thurston, Kitsap, Pierce and Whatcom counties, sold seized firearms in the six-month period that ended in March 2012, common practice for many departments.
The Washington State Patrol also sells seized guns. A May 10, 2012 invoice shows that the law enforcement supply company G.W. Inc, gave Washington State Patrol $42,200 in credit for 211 confiscated guns. The credit is then used by the State Patrol to buy new guns, ammo, and equipment. Supporters agree that this is much better than using tax money to buy new police equipment.
Robert Calkins, the State Patrols spokesman said he thought it was a good deal for taxpayers. “If we can get some value for them (guns), as opposed to asking the taxpayer to buy this (equipment) with cash, we’re doing them a favor.”
The King 5 investigation did find that several guns in police custody have ended up at eight different crime scenes including two assaults and a robbery.
Those guns were purchased by former Bremerton police detective Roy Alloway after he purchased them from a licensed firearms dealer that was purchasing the guns from police departments.
Alloway admitting to selling the guns for big profits at guns shows where he sold over 700 guns, bringing in $150,000, without the required firearms license. Alloway is now serving time for the illegal firearm sales in federal prison.
The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office held a gun buyback one week before Seattle. Unlike Seattle, Thurston County's Sheriff's Department gives attendees a choice of whether they want the gun destroyed or whether they want to allow the police to sell the firearm for department credit.
The Washington State Patrol sells all guns seized due to Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 9.41.098 that says the guns they seize “must be auctioned or traded to licensed dealers.” Adam Kline (D-Seattle) responded by drafting a bill that would lift the requirement for the State Patrol to sell all its seized guns.
“We should not be putting those back in circulation. Yes, it’s legal. But as a legislature we have to look at it in policy terms. Do we want to allow that to continue to be our policy? I don’t know. I don’t,” said Kline.
The media response has been quite negative thus far, many feeling all guns turned in should be destroyed. Others support putting firearms back into the hands of law abiding citizens and helping police departments financially. Despite these policies being quite old, the gun debate seems to be throwing anything and everything gun related on the table.
Kline's bill will need the approval of the Chair of the Senate’s Law and Justice Committee before it can get a hearing. The Chair, Sen. Mike Padden (R-Spokane), says he supports the sale of legal guns by police agencies, citing the resulting revenue or credit.