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Cash-Strapped Michigan Sheriff's Department Auctioning Machine Gun

For sale: Collector quality, fully automatic M-16 in excellent condition. Never fired outside shooting range.

Buyer must have machine gun permit and have no criminal record. And deep pockets.

Strapped for cash, the Lapeer County Sheriff's Department is selling the original Colt rifle on its Web site to purchase new guns and other equipment for its 82 deputies. The office hasn't received a budget increase in six years, and Undersheriff Robert Rapson said the gun might fetch as much as $1,700 by the time bidding closes May 1.

"We are a small county and we need to take advantage of this," Rapson told the Detroit Free Press for a story published Tuesday. "We've had to cut to the bone for a long time."

The department purchased the weapon, which is capable of firing 700 rounds per minute, for $500 in the 1970s for use in emergencies such as hostage situations. Last fall, the department sold off its arsenal of five AR-15 automatic rifles.

A 1986 federal law banned the sale of new automatic weapons but allowed those already in circulation to be sold.

"The fact that a law enforcement agency is selling a dangerous weapon is appalling," said Shikha Hamilton, president of the Michigan chapter of the Million Mom March, a gun control group.