- January 8, 2018 at 9:09 pm #48641ArtfulParticipant
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YAKIMA, WA — After Kyle Juhl was unable to repair his relationship with his fiancee four years ago, he took back his ring, put a Smith & Wesson 9 mm handgun to his head and squeezed the trigger. Juhl’s fiancee and her mother ran from the apartment in Yakima and the bullet traveled through a wall, just barely missing a neighbor’s head who had bent over to pick up her young son.
The gun Juhl fired had been seized by the Washington State Patrol years before during a criminal probe, but then sold back to the public.
Juhl eventually procured the weapon unlawfully.
But while Juhl’s case may be cited as a reason not to sell seized guns back to the public — a longtime practice allowed in most states — data suggests such tragedies involving resold guns are extremely rare.
Juhl’s gun was among nearly 6,000 firearms used in crimes and then sold by Washington law enforcement agencies since 2010, an Associated Press review found. More than a dozen of those weapons later turned up in new criminal probes within the state, the yearlong AP analysis found. The analysis looked at hundreds of public records to match serial numbers.
The guns were used to threaten people, seized at gang hangouts, uncovered in drug houses, possessed illegally by convicted felons, hidden in a stolen car, and taken from a man who was committed because of erratic behavior.
While those dozen or so guns represent an extremely small percentage of the resold firearms, some police departments say the law shouldn’t do anything to put weapons back on the street. The AP did not look at how many of the resold guns figured in crimes committed out of state, so the actual number of misused weapons could be higher.
“We didn’t want to be the agency that sold the gun to somebody who uses it in another crime,” said Capt. Jeff Schneider of the Yakima Police Department, which sold guns until about a decade ago but now melts them down. He added: “While there is almost an unlimited supply of firearms out there, we don’t need to make the problem worse.”
Similarly, the International Association of Chiefs of Police said confiscated guns should be destroyed because putting them back in circulation “increases the availability of firearms which could be used again to kill or injure additional police officers and citizens.” Also, federal agencies must destroy seized firearms unless they are needed as evidence or being used by the agency.
On the other side of the debate, some law enforcement officials said the selling of guns raises money to purchase crime-fighting equipment, and if the practice were abandoned, people would just buy weapons somewhere else. In fact, a growing number of states from Arizona to North Carolina are passing laws prohibiting agencies from destroying guns.
“These guns are going to be out there,” said Sheriff Will Reichardt of Skagit County, Washington. “If I destroy them all, I’m just helping Remington or Winchester’s bottom line.”
Phyllis Holcomb, a manager with the Kentucky State Police, which oversees Kentucky’s gun sale program, said such transactions have helped equip officers with body armor and other gear.
The debate is playing out in Washington state, where the State Patrol is pushing back against a state law that requires the agency to auction off or trade most guns.
The State Patrol hasn’t sold any weapons since 2014 and at one point accumulated more than 400 in the hope the Legislature would change the law and let the agency destroy them. Democratic Rep. Tana Senn of Bellevue is sponsoring such a bill.
“I know many of the police chiefs in my district chose not to sell but rather to destroy, and in their own words, ‘It’s so we can sleep at night,'” Senn told a legislative committee.
The National Rifle Association opposes the plan.
“The police chiefs maybe could sleep better if they went out and apprehended the criminals behind the guns and didn’t worry about destroying perfectly legal firearms that are no more easy to purchase than a brand-new firearm at a firearms dealer,” NRA spokesman Tom Kwieciak said.
The weapons sold back to the public in Washington include Colt, Glock and Ruger pistols, 12-gauge shotguns, .22-caliber rifles and assault weapons such as AR-15 and SKS rifles. All such sales are handled through federally licensed firearms dealers, including auction houses, pawnshops and sporting goods stores. Before buyers can take their guns home, they must pass an FBI background check.
On a recent Friday night, owner John West of Johnny’s Auction House in Rochester, Washington, about 80 miles south of Seattle, launched into his rapid-fire bid-calling to a packed room, selling necklaces and coins. Before he offered up the first police-confiscated gun for sale, he had a warning.
“Straight up,” he told the crowd, “if you cannot possess a firearm and you can’t pass a background check, just don’t even bother bidding.”
There is no master list of guns sold by police, so compiling one for Washington state involved dozens of public-records requests to individual agencies. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives keeps track of crime guns but refused to release information from its database, so the AP collected databases from individual agencies and compared them with the sold guns.
One of the guns that ended up in a new police report was a .22-caliber handgun sold by Longview police in 2016. In 2017, a drunken Jesse Brown and a friend armed themselves with the gun and two other weapons, went to a house and threatened two young men they believed were selling drugs, police said.
Longview Police Chief Jim Duscha said that while some resold guns may be used in new crimes, “if they’re going to get a weapon, they’re going to get a weapon.” Selling guns generates money used for drug investigations, he said.
The Seattle Police Department and the sheriff’s office in surrounding King County don’t sell crime-scene weapons; they hand them over to a foundry to be melted down at no cost to themselves.
For years, the State Patrol traded confiscated firearms to dealers for other gear, and the dealers then would sell the guns to the public. In one exchange in 2013, the State Patrol traded in 159 weapons and got a credit of $27,420, which it then used to buy handguns for the force.
The weapon Juhl used to kill himself was in a batch the State Patrol traded in 2012. It was purchased by a man in Yakima, who sold it to someone else, who then sold it on Craigslist. Juhl’s girlfriend told police that’s where he acquired it.
Juhl, 24, was not legally permitted to own or possess a gun. He received a bad-conduct discharge from the Army after serving time in prison for using the drug ecstasy and going AWOL for about two months. An Army spokesman said Juhl’s criminal history was sent to the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information System, but the police detective who handled Juhl’s suicide said he checked the FBI’s database but didn’t find Juhl’s convictions.
Below are details about guns sold by law enforcement that were later picked up at crime scenes:
BABY SHOT IN CAR SEAT
The Washington State Patrol traded a batch of crime guns with a firearms dealer in June 2010. The batch included a Lorcin L380 semi-automatic pistol. In April 2015, a gang member shot at a car carrying a couple and their year-old daughter. One of the bullets hit the child in the head and killed her. While searching a home frequented by the suspected shooter and many other gang members, the Kent Police Department found a Lorcin L380 semi-automatic pistol — the gun sold by the State Patrol.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office in April 2014 sold a list of guns at auction that included a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun. In October 2016, Jaylen Bolar sent text messages to his mother, threatening to kill her and others. Angela Almo contacted a behavioral health center instead of the police because she knew her son had firearms, including a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun and she feared he’d be killed in a standoff with authorities.
When the Tacoma police became involved, he denied it, but his aunt confirmed that she, too, had received threats. Robin Olson showed an officer her phone, which contained a message from Bolar asking his uncle to kill him because he was tired of living.
Bolar also threatened to kill a woman who used to be his boss. He was taken into custody, and a search of his home found two firearms in his bedroom. One was the Mossberg shotgun sold by the sheriff’s office.
JUVENILES IN STOLEN CAR
The Aberdeen Police Department sold a Lorcin Model L380 pistol in February 2011. In May 2016, the Kent Police Department located a stolen vehicle parked at the Benson Village Apartments and found a gun under the seat — the Lorcin Model L380 pistol sold by Aberdeen police. The three juveniles who stole the car were convicted felons.
The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office sold a Hi Point 9mm pistol in March 2014. In October 2015, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911 call from a woman who said she heard what she thought was a gunshot and went outside to find her daughter’s intoxicated boyfriend passed out on the front porch. When deputies arrived, they found a handgun, the Hi Point 9 mm pistol, on the ground next to the man. It was the gun sold by the Kitsap sheriff’s office. A search found that the man was a convicted felon who wasn’t permitted to have a gun. The deputy put the man in handcuffs and called for medical help.
PROHIBITED FROM HAVING GUN
The Washington State Patrol traded a Lorcin L380 semi-automatic pistol with a firearms dealer in June 2010. In May 2015, the Kent Police Department was investigating a 911 call and encountered four people outside the house. One of the men was prohibited from having a gun, but they found he was carrying a handgun, the Lorcin L380 semi-automatic pistol sold by the State Patrol. The gun had been reported stolen, and he was arrested.
DRUG HOUSE ASSAULT
The Aberdeen Police Department traded a JC Higgins .22-caliber rifle with a firearms dealer in February 2011. In April 2015, the Yakima Police Department responded to a domestic violence assault involving a JC Higgins .22-caliber rifle with the same serial number. The dispute involved an elderly man who had handled his wife roughly and threatened her sister. The man was charged, and police took his firearm. In October 2015, Kent police searched a suspected drug house and arrested several people wanted on felony warrants. They found a .22 caliber rifle — the JC Higgins rifle sold by the Aberdeen police.
FACEBOOK POSTS ABOUT KILLING
The Thurston County Narcotics Task Force sold a Smith & Wesson pistol in August 2012. In October 2013, the Tacoma Police went to the University of Washington, Tacoma to investigate a report of a student who was posting photos of a gun on Facebook and said he had “vivid, colorful dreams of shooting and killing lots of people last night.” Police found in his backpack a Smith and Wesson pistol, the one sold by the narcotics task force.
COCAINE PARTY FAVORS
The Bonney Lake Police Department in March 2011 traded a Davis Industries .380-caliber handgun with a firearms dealer who sold it to the public. In February 2012, Kent police stopped a man for an expired registration and discovered baggies of cocaine in his car. He said they were party favors. They also found his concealed handgun, the firearm sold by the police.
THREATS TO KILL
Longview Police Department sold a Davis Industries.22 caliber pistol in August 2016. The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911 call in April 2017 from a man who said his father headed to a house with a gun and planned to threaten the occupants. Jesse Brown threatened to kill the men who lived there and was arrested. Officers confiscated his Davis Industries .22 caliber pistol — the one sold by Longview police — and 15 other firearms.
The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office sold a Mossberg, Model 590, 12-gauge shotgun in December 2014. In March 2016, the Tacoma police responded to a call by a 12-year-old girl who said she and her sister fled their home because their father was drunk and was threatening to shoot his girlfriend and threatening to beat up one of the girls because he couldn’t find his gun. The police later found a Mossberg, Model 590, 12-gauge shotgun — the gun sold by the Sheriff’s Office — in the bathtub.
MENTAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
The Thurston County Narcotics Task Force sold a Springfield Armory .40-caliber pistol in December 2013. In February 2014, the Seattle Police Department helped take firearms from a man who was having a mental health emergency and was at the Involuntary Treatment Act court. One of the guns was the Springfield Armory .40-caliber pistol sold by the task force.
By MARTHA BELLISLE, Associated Press
This Is How Our Gun Laws Might Actually Change After the Latest Mass Shooting
by Phillip Francis January 08, 2018
In the wake of multiple shootings, gun laws are again at the forefront of conversation. The U.S. suffers more mass shooting incidents then there are days in the year. The U.S. sees about 12,000 people die each year due to gun violence, which is about 25 times higher than other developed nations. Yet every time this happens, very little is done by politicians to stem the tide of this constant loss of life. So what’s different about this mass shooting? What will change in our approach to gun control?
The NRA tends to get into an ad campaign right after these mass shootings to promote the idea that the left is coming to take your guns. You may remember when NRA vice president Wayne LaPierre said: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The simple fact is that no politician is ever going to pass a law that would ban all weapons forever. Even the most liberal politicians, like Bernie Sanders, are a little skittish when it comes to the idea of complete abolition.
What will be passed in Congress?
The only thing that has a chance to get passed would be a bill that expands background checks on people buying guns. Such legislation is aimed at curbing the amount of gun violence in general. In Senator Chris Murphy’s home state of Connecticut, they saw a 40% decrease in gun violence overall after expanding background checks.
It is important to note that this would not have prevented Stephen Paddock from purchasing a weapon because he didn’t have so much as a speeding ticket on his record. If this shooting is going to do anything, it’s going to delay loosening of restrictions that are already in play.
Silencers and trafficking are stopped
The Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act is a bill that was put on hold by the GOP in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre. The bill would have loosened the restrictions on silencers, currently held in the same regard as explosives by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The legislation would remove restrictions on the purchase and use of silencers.
It also would allow guns to be trafficked over state lines, and loosen restrictions on armor-piercing bullets (you know, for all those deer with armor on). This bill was delayed once before, when the mass shooting at the Congressional baseball game occurred earlier this year.
Some people’s views on gun control have changed
It’s hard to believe that almost no one changed their mind after 20 children were gunned down at Sandy Hook, but some people seem to be changing their mind now. The lead guitarist for the Josh Abbot Band, Caleb Keeter, who has been a staunch advocate for 2nd amendment rights, did a 180 on his support.
He was at the Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas the weekend of the shooting, and wrote about his experience afterward: “I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd Amendment my whole life, until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was … We need gun control RIGHT. NOW.” Keeter goes on to say how much he regrets not realizing it until “my brothers on the road and myself were threatened by it.” Keeter is a country music artist and has no official role in politics, but if he can change his mind, other opponents may be able to as well.
Do Americans actually want gun control?
This is a very nuanced subject. For example, according to a poll from Quinnipiac University, 98% of Americans support laws pertaining to background checks. This may sound like Americans are over the hill in support of gun control, but you can look at the same poll from Quinnipiac University, that says only 47% of Americans feel like a ban on assault rifles will be effective at preventing gun violence. So the range of beliefs is varied and confusing, since the gun control debate covers so many different areas of a very large industry. There isn’t a cut and dry answer to this question.
The numbers speak for themselves
The most effective middle ground on gun control is the criminal background check. You still get to keep your guns, but only if you’re not a threat to the rest of society on paper. For example, Connecticut saw a 40% decrease in gun violence passing a similar regulation. Conversely, Missouri rolled back criminal background checks in 2007 and saw a 25% increase in gun deaths and a 98% increase in trafficking of firearms.
How can common sense gun reform get passed?
Short of dismantling the NRA, and voting the majority of Republicans out of the House, Senate, and White House, there is a snowball’s chance in hell of getting any gun legislation passed in the United States. We are going to have to wait another few years to see that happen. So if you think there should be gun control, elect representatives on local, state, and federal levels that reflect those views. In an effort to save lives, isn’t that the best thing you can do?
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