Cities push to destroy seized guns -- even in states where it's prohibited

When police seize a gun that was owned illegally, should they destroy it or auction it off?

Some cities around the country would like to destroy them, but can’t because more than a dozen states have passed laws forcing city governments to put the guns up for auction.

Gun rights advocates helped get the state laws passed, arguing that destroying old guns is wasteful. But officials in cities like Tucson, Ariz., and Savannah, Ga., are pushing back against those laws, saying they need to destroy the guns to prevent more violence.

Tucson has destroyed nearly 5,000 seized guns since 2013, despite a law that, the state government claims, bans doing so. After the state threatened legal action, the city voted this month to stop destroying guns while it challenges the law in court.

In Savannah, city council members have launched an effort to get permission from the state to destroy guns, rather than sell them.

“I favor destroying those weapons. I don’t want them sold to pawn shops or gun dealers. These guns seem to always wind up in the poor neighborhoods,” City Councilman John Hall told

He admitted that it is likely to be a tough fight.

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“We are facing an uphill battle to get that changed because of the heavy gun lobby in the state,” he said.

Gun advocates who helped get the bill passed argue that re-sold guns should be treated just like new guns.

“The holy grail of gun prohibitionists, the background check, will be employed when a person purchases one of these firearms,” Jerry Henry, executive director of, told

“There is absolutely no reason to destroy a perfectly good legal item just because the item was stolen and is now in the hands of law enforcement,” Henry said.

Hall does not agree.

“A lot of people say these guns won’t end up in the hands of the wrong people. These guns do,” he said. Asked if he had a specific example of that, he said he did not – but knew that it happened.

Asked if re-selling the guns might provide a cheap alternative for people looking to buy a gun for self-defense, Hall said, “Most people who buy for legitimate purposes – they buy new weapons. That’s what I believe.”

Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the pro-gun rights Second Amendment Foundation, noted that destroying guns would benefit gun manufacturers.

“If there’s a demand to buy firearms, and the city has destroyed these guns, it just helps the firearms industry selling new guns … If you’re anti-gun it backfires in your face.”

While neither Hall nor other proponents of destroying seized guns argue that the point is to prevent weapons manufacturers from turning a profit, Gottlieb sees the cities’ efforts as part of a campaign against guns in general, “because they hate guns and don’t want anybody to own one.”

Gottlieb added that the group isn’t looking to help the gun manufacturers. “We’re here to help the consumer. And if consumers can buy a firearm at a lower price, that’s what we’re here to do.”

For his part, Hall doesn’t understand why anyone would oppose destroying guns and other anti-gun laws.

“I had an older brother who was murdered in 1984 by a handgun,” Hall said. “It’s downright disgusting to me how people argue against common sense legislation. Did you know that a 12-year-old can walk down the streets of this city with a long gun? That’s legal. We live here in a state where you can carry a gun in church or in a bar. We have gun nuts here who just aren’t for any common sense gun control.”

Those “gun nuts” believe that restrictions on weapons nearly always backfire.

“The only people they ever injure with their gun-control laws are law-abiding citizens. Criminals will always have their firearms, regardless of laws,” Henry said.