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Con: Law could be dangerous, counterproductive to police's mission

By Jessica Priest
Sept. 1, 2013 at 4:01 a.m.

Small caliber pistols, rifles and sawed-off handles are some of the guns that have been cleared from cases and soon could be available for sale by the sheriff's office.

There is a reason a firearm lands in a police officer's lap.

And it is usually not a good one, so they should not be sold at public auction, Victoria Police Chief J.J. Craig said.

His department has destroyed 178 seized firearms since September 2011, and the number is only likely to rise.

"I wouldn't want to put them right back on the street to have them fall into the wrong hands and perhaps come back to us again," he said.

Craig's fear is one that is very real, said Ladd Everitt, director of communications at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

The new law is counterproductive to a police officer's mission, as secondary sales of firearms between private citizens are unregulated in the Lone Star State, Everitt said.

All you have to do is look at the numbers, as the Centers for Disease Control reported more than 30,000 people died from a gunshot wound in 2010. There is also no gun shortage, he said.

"People are stockpiling," Everitt said. "The average gun owner owns seven or more."

He worries the sales might take a toll on a victim's family.

Still, others wearing a badge said the law, although well-intentioned, is not necessary.

It won't affect DeWitt County Sheriff Jode Zavesky, who since 2005 has traded between 30 to 40 firearms to a law enforcement equipment shop in Austin called GT Distributors.

"I feel comfortable with doing it with GT because they do clean them up, turn them around and sell them to licensed peace officers," he said.

With store credit, the county buys uniforms, belts, ammunition and flashlights.

Those firearms beyond saving go to a welder, who melts them down for free, Zavesky said.

Victoria County Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor realized early on he would spend a lot of time searching under couch cushions if he wanted to get more supplies and overtime for his deputies. That's why he proactively trimmed the budget and applied for and won numerous grants, which make it unnecessary in most cases to sell the cheap, broken guns sitting in the agency's evidence locker.

"Unfortunately, we don't have anything of true value. You know the saying, 'One person's trash is another person's treasure?' Well, I don't think that applies here," O'Connor said. "Our trash is everybody's trash. We'd just as soon as clean it up and dispose of it properly and move on."

Hillary Fluitt, a 28-year-old stay-at-home mom, wants police to ensure the guns they are thinking of hawking are not linked to other crimes.

"That could be a catastrophe," she said, if someone who purchased it afterward was wrongfully arrested or convicted.

"Are they going to process the guns beforehand to make sure they don't misfire?" Fluitt asked.

Fluitt's friend, Melissa Nesloney, a 37-year-old nurse's assistant, owns several guns and wants to earn her concealed handgun license, especially after the victims of the Crestwood Apartment complex shooting called 911 from her neighborhood. The lights and sirens scared her sons, who attend elementary school nearby.

The process Fluitt spoke about could be just as costly as what the Victoria Police Department already does - destroy the guns in house, Nesloney said.

"And why do they have the manpower to do that but not come out to minor accidents?" Nesloney asked.

Pro: Measure clears up a legal gray area, could help agencies earn money

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