The Republican Party’s obsession with prioritizing the right to unlimited access to guns over American lives came into greater focus earlier this month when it was revealed that in multiple states, GOP lawmakers have effectively made it illegal to destroy guns used in murders and mass shootings.
For months, the nation’s eyes have been bombarded with terrible and disturbing images of mass shootings.
Two weeks ago, five people were killed at a bank in Louisville, Ky. Another five were injured and one more person killed in a mass shooting in Goldsboro, N.C.
The previous week, 12 people were injured and one killed in three mass shootings in New Orleans, La.; Jackson, Tenn.; and Fayetteville, N.C.
The week before that we watched in horror as three children and three staff members were gunned down at an elementary school in Nashville, Tenn. Two days later, Tennessee experienced another mass shooting, which killed two and injured five more in Memphis.
Blood is running in our schools and in our streets as the bodies keep piling up.
While the specific weapons used in all the mass shootings listed above are currently in police evidence lockers, as soon as the civil and criminal cases surrounding the shootings are resolved, they will be available for the public to purchase, potentially by the next mass shooter as a sick souvenir. All of these shootings took place in one of the 12 states that effectively require guns confiscated by police to be sold back to the public.
Craig Greenberg, the mayor of Louisville, choked back tears as he described how the assault weapon used to kill five people “will be on the streets one day under Kentucky’s current law.” Rather than giving the people, the police department or the local elected government the authority to choose what happens to guns used in the massacre, Kentucky law makes it a crime for Greenberg, or any other government official, to destroy a functional firearm, even if it was used for mass murder.
Apparently, the guns must live on, the people don’t.
This is perverse.
Gun enthusiasts often claim that one important reason they advocate for gun rights is to protect their family. Yet even a cursory review of the number of guns seized from criminals in states that encourage or require resale suggests that thousands of Americans currently protect their home and their family with a weapon that was used to commit serious crime and might even been used to slaughter someone else’s family.
Moreover, the weapons sold by other states regularly cross borders, endangering the lives of individuals in every state.
In 2010, a shotgun that was confiscated and sold by a sheriff’s office in Tennessee was used to kill a Las Vegas court security officer. That same year, another gun confiscated and sold by a Tennessee police force was used to ambush two Pentagon police officers, demonstrating that even police can become the victims of the guns sold by their colleagues. A similar shooting occurred in 2015 in Minnesota, after a man with a history of violence purchased two guns sold by a local police department and then proceeded to open fire inside city hall.
We are not arguing that these criminals won’t obtain guns by other means, but that once the police have a firearm used in criminal activity in its possession, that weapon should be taken out of circulation permanently by destroying it.
Despite recent events, GOP lawmakers in Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Texas, Tennessee and West Virginia have all passed legislation that either prohibits or severely limits law enforcement’s ability to destroy guns and either encourages or requires confiscated weapons to be sold back to the public.
These laws also effectively ban gun-buy-back programs unless cities agree to simply resell the guns they just got off the streets.
Making matters worse, at the federal level, GOP members of Congress and the gun lobby that finances them made it impossible to know just how many gun crimes are committed using guns that were confiscated and sold by police. That’s because a law passed in 2003 prohibits the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from releasing a gun’s sale history to the public. That means a person could buy a weapon used to murder children at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and not even know it.
The National Rifle Association has argued that police destruction of firearms is unnecessary and wasteful, and that money acquired from the sale of firearms can be used to aid law enforcement training. But even this argument doesn’t hold water.
A Colorado Springs, Colo., audit found that testing and preparing guns for auction was so costly and time-intensive that the city actually lost money on gun sales. This means the only possible reason to resell confiscated guns is to ensure that there are more guns on our streets — a reality that Republicans and Second Amendment extremists have never been able to justify.
As Mayor Greenberg said, “Let us destroy illegal guns and destroy the guns that have been used to kill our friends and kill our neighbors. … I don’t care about finger pointing. I don’t care about blame. I don’t care about politics. … Doing nothing is not a strategy.”
We couldn’t agree more. Gun violence affects all Americans and it’s time that all Americans stand up and demand that GOP elected officials do something about it. Destroying guns used in crimes isn’t enough, but it would be a start.
—The Las Vegas Sun