The cash-strapped police department in Sweetwater, Fl., has found a way to get brand-new guns for its 23 officers: sell the old ones. The Miami Herald says that Police Chief Robert Fulgueira received approval to sell 20 guns that were either confiscated or voluntarily turned in over the past decade — weapons that most police agencies would destroy. The department is also trading in about 45 old service weapons that were issued to officers. Fulgueira set up the deal with Lou’s Police and Security Equipment, which ranks first among Florida gun shops in the number of guns sold that were subsequently used in crimes.
Critics worry that Sweetwater might be indirectly putting guns back into the hands of criminals. “We understand the budget pressures facing small police departments and we’re very sympathetic,” said Peter Hamm of the Brady Campaign, a gun control advocacy group. “We just don’t think police departments should be in the business of selling guns, even to a licensed gun dealer, because licensed gun dealers are the beginning of the process of putting guns into criminals’ hands.” Many police departments trade in their old service weapons when they buy new ones. But most melt down or dump into the ocean weapons they have confiscated. In 1999, the International Association of Chiefs of Police urged all departments to destroy their old guns –both the service weapons and the ones they confiscate or find. IACP firearms committee chairman Ronald Glidden said many small departments destroy only their confiscated guns. They trade in or sell their old service weapons. “I know there are departments that do destroy them, but there are not many departments that can afford that,” said Glidden, chief of the Lee, Mass., police department. “I know I can’t afford that.”