NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Cities Suing Gun Makers Also Sell Guns

November 9, 1999

Four of the 28 municipalities that have taken gun manufacturers to court are themselves selling used police weapons and confiscated firearms. Faced with the incongruity of their position, New Orleans, Miami, St. Louis and Bridgeport, Conn., say they are abandoning or reviewing the practice.

They are only four among a growing number of states and cities that say they plan to change their ways.

  • Both the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the International Association of Chiefs of Police have urged a ban on the two-decade-old practice of having police agencies trade in old guns for price breaks on new weapons.
  • Data from the Bureau of Tobacco, Alcohol and Firearms have shown that at least 1,100 former police guns were among the 193,203 crime guns traced in 1998 -- but experts believe that figure may only represent the tip of the iceberg, because of inconsistencies in compiling data.
  • Illinois, New Jersey, Fairfax County, Va., Lakewood, Colo., and Modesto, Calif., are among the states and cities that plan to abandon the practice.
  • The move could be costly to police departments, since gun makers often offer steep discounts for trade-ins -- which they then sell to wholesalers.

Experts report that old police guns have been recycled into the consumer market ever since the 1980s.

Source: Vanessa O'Connell and Paul M. Barrett, "Unloading Old Police Guns: More Cities Ban Trade-Ins and Resales," Wall Street Journal, November 10, 1999.


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