NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Police As Gun Suppliers

August 16, 1999

Most of the 26 municipalities that have sued the gun industry for flooding the market with handguns have, themselves, poured hundreds of thousands of second-hand police guns and confiscated firearms into circulation, experts report. Thousands of these weapons have turned up in crimes -- including a Glock 26 pistol used in the attack on a Jewish Community Center and in the killing of a postman last week.

Critics of the suits say cities like Boston, New Orleans and San Francisco have much to account for in the process of attacking gunmakers.

  • Data obtained by the Wall Street Journal show that at least 1,100 former police guns were among the 193,203 crime guns traced last year by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms,
  • But Columbia University expert Howard Andrews says that number probably only represents "the tip of the iceberg" in former law-enforcement weapons used in crimes.
  • Handgun Control Inc. -- which as the nation's biggest gun control group is helping organize and lead the municipal lawsuits against the industry -- has reportedly tried to play down the issue of municipal sales of used guns.
  • Police swaps of old guns for new first became common in the mid-1980s and has picked up recently.

Since last fall, officials in a number of cities that were filing or planning to file suits against the gun industry have worried that their own police departments' methods of getting rid of old service weapons would expose the cities to allegations of hypocrisy.

The municipal suits accuse the industry of failing to oversee aggressively how guns are distributed and sold. The municipal officials fretted that their cities, too, could be accused of negligence if there was a risk that guns they were getting rid of might end up in criminal hands.

Source: Vanessa O'Connell and Paul M. Barrett, "Cities Suing Gun Firms Have a Weak Spot: They're Suppliers, Too," Wall Street Journal, August 16, 1999.


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