GREENSBORO, NC -- Some police departments across the state are facing a gun dilemma and it's not what you might think.
The recent uptick in violent crimes and more aggressive police initiatives to curb it, means some, like the Greensboro Police Department, are taking a lot of guns off the streets.
But a state law is presenting a dilemma where some of those departments can't decide what to do with the guns once a case is over and they no longer need the gun for evidence.
As a result, the firearms keep piling up and are in storage collecting dust.
The Greensboro Police Department currently has more than 5,000 guns stored in 55-gallon drums, sealed and stacked away in an evidence room.
According to Chief Wayne Scott, many of them were collected in the last three years as part of criminal investigations.
In the past, Greensboro and other police departments could destroy the guns after a case ended.
However, the legislature amended the North Carolina firearm disposition law in 2013 to make it illegal for departments to destroy guns that are intact with visible serial numbers and have no rightful owner who can legally carry.
That means, departments have to sell them to licensed dealers, keep them for training or trade them in to buy more equipment.
Chief Scott and his department have chosen not to sell them, saying he doesn’t want to “put guns back out on the streets.”
“Most all guns start out on the legal side and then eventually are stolen or sold improperly or whatever the case may be. And, I just really don't want a weapon that's passed through the Greensboro Police Department to end up being a weapon used in a crime in the future,” he said.
Scott says he’s hoping the law will eventually change and allow the department to once again destroy the guns.
The police chief says it's a moral and professional decision that has nothing to do with politics.
“It's not anti-Second Amendment. It is not at all. It's just a matter of the Greensboro Police Department not be a part of a chain of events that'll put any firearm back out that may harm someone. That’s the bottom-line,” he explained.
Note, 2WTK asked to see the guns. The chief refused, saying they are being stored in the evidence room where the general public isn't allowed. Asked how much the guns in storage could net him, the chief said "roughly $15,000. That's a very rough estimate."
He went on to explain that the estimated amount is because the guns aren't new; they have been used in crimes and dealers have quoted him anywhere between 20% - 40% the market value for each.
Chief Scott adds that not all the guns are expensive, even at market value. The amount he'd receive for them, he says, isn't worth the unimaginable.
“I'm a good steward of public money. Every dollar counts but equally tragic event may cost more than that and it would be disturbing to me and to know that we had a gun in our possession at a point, in the police department, and through whatever means, perhaps it was stolen later and caused another tragedy,” Scott added.
We reached out to the state lawmaker who sponsored the change in the law, Senator Andy Brock.
He says he has a problem with police not selling the guns for revenue or using them for training.
Brock went on to say, that's money the departments could be using to fill gaps in their budgets.
Across the Triad, departments have applied the law differently.
Winston-Salem, like Greensboro, puts some of the guns in a reference library.
But instead of storing the rest, like in Greensboro, to officers use them for training.
The Winston-Salem Police Department is also working on a deal to eventually sell them.
High Point police say, "in most cases, we end up selling the firearms. We simply don't have the space to store a bunch of firearms for an indefinite period of time."
Burlington police tell 2 Wants 2 Know’s Faith Abubey, they trade them in and use the credit to buy more equipment.
A recent batch they sold brought in $5,000.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include the police chief's explanation of why 5,000 guns would only bring in roughly $15,000.
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