The Commercial Appeal, Scripps Interactive Newspapers Group www.commercialappeal.com
BYLINE: Richard Locker,
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But director doesn't like losing options
NASHVILLE -- Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin said Wednesday that a new state law banning police agencies from destroying operable guns seized from criminals removes an option that allowed his department to destroy 1,900 guns last year.
The director also said "it's unfortunate" that two guns used in a pair of high-profile shootings this year -- a fatal shooting at the Las Vegas courthouse and the March 4 shooting at a Pentagon subway stop -- had been seized years ago by Memphis authorities but eventually ended up in the hands of the shooters, without background checks.
Other elected and law enforcement officials weighed in on the issue earlier this week, but Godwin had been unavailable for comment.
He said in an interview Wednesday that the Memphis Police Department followed the law in disposing of seized weapons. He said the department never sells confiscated guns to the public or gun dealers, but trades them for police service weapons with federally licensed gun manufacturers.
A new Tennessee statute signed into law March 3 by Gov. Phil Bredesen eliminates one of three options law enforcement agencies have for disposing of confiscated guns. Prior to the new law, agencies could sell or trade the guns, keep them for police use or destroy them. Now, they can destroy only guns certified as inoperable or unsafe.
Godwin said that of the approximately 4,000 confiscated guns that MPD was allowed to dispose of last year -- in cases that have worked their way through the courts, or which involved stolen guns returned to their owners -- about 1,900 were destroyed and the remainder were traded to licensed manufacturers.
The operable guns that were destroyed had either been modified, had their serial numbers removed or were illegal, such as fully automatic guns.
He said MPD will still be able, under the new law, to destroy guns that are illegal for people to own.
"I don't think a department ought to be locked into" not being able to destroy them, he said. "We'll follow the law but if it becomes more of a concern, I guess we'll have to lobby" to change it.
-- Richard Locker: (615) 255-4923.
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