Among the slew of right-wing laws ushered through the Republican-dominated North Carolina legislature this year is one that bans police from destroying confiscated or unclaimed guns. The National Rifle Association-backed law, which went into effect Sunday, means police must either keep or sell all guns, unless they are already damaged or missing serial numbers.
Among other things, the so-called “save the gun” law seriously undermines gun buyback programs, which provided an avenue for individuals to turn in their firearms no questions asked. Those guns were often later destroyed, contingent in North Carolina on the permission of a judge. Now, as the Los Angeles Times points out, the law “strips local judges of power in deciding how to deal with unclaimed guns — a top-down move fully supported by the NRA.”
Like many other measures to ease access to guns, the measure is now making its way through a number of states, in spite of opposition from law enforcement. When Arizona passed a similar measure earlier this year, police said the policy effectively blocked them from achieving the primary goal of gun buyback programs — decreasing the number of illegal guns on the streets. “It would be counterproductive of us to be involved in a program where we would buy guns only to sell them back,” Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Steve Martos told the Huffington Post in May. “I don’t know if that would be a benefit to us.”
But the NRA warned in letters of support of a “political agenda of destroying firearms,” echoing frequent claims that the government is intent on confiscating and destroying citizens’ guns. In fact, gun destruction by police in states that allow it only applies to guns that were used in the commission of a crime, voluntarily surrendered to police, or unclaimed. And guns seized in buybacks but not destroyed have, in several incidents, been traced back to later crimes. Next month, another new North Carolina law will allow those with concealed carry permits to bring their guns into bars, playgrounds, and public recreation areas.
A Texas law on gun destruction also goes into effect this month. Rather than ban the destruction of guns, that law permits law enforcement agencies to sell the guns. Previously, police were required to either keep or destroy the guns, under the rationale that putting those guns back onto the street would be counterproductive. The law was pitched as a means of raising money for cash-strapped police departments. But unlike in North Carolina, Texas officers have a choice, and many predicted they likely would not be willing to raise money that way. “[W]e don’t want to put additional weapons back out there on the street that have already been confiscated or used in a crime,” Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton of the Waco Police Department told the New York Times.