Arizona -(Ammoland.com)- Vermont is finally selling guns the government has impounded for decades. The legislation to do so came at the price of universal background checks, a ban on standard capacity magazines, and a ban on sales to adults less than 21 years old.
Prior to 2018, Vermont had created a legal and political impasse about stored firearms in state and police custody. The firearms had accumulated over decades. Most of the firearms were not involved in serious crimes.
“Disposing of firearms is one of the most difficult parts of managing our evidence and property rooms,” said Morrison, who also serves as president of the Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police.
Under state law, officials need permission from the commissioner of public safety or the state treasurer in order to destroy or sell guns held by the government. According to Morrison, those officials have refused to give their permission for years, even when she proposed bringing in a private company that can strip guns for parts and then destroy them for free.
With no legal way for cops to get rid of the guns, they pile up.
About 300 guns had accumulated in state custody as well. Before 2018, the state treasurer had been responsible for the disposal of the guns. But neither of those political officials wanted to take responsibility to do so.
It is easy to understand why. Destroy the guns, and they would be accused of destroying valuable property for no good reason. Sell the guns, and the shrill anti-Second Amendment types would accuse them of “putting deadly weapons on the street”. So the firearms accumulated in the thousands.
Vermont has a low crime rate, but high gun ownership.
Early in 2018, Senate Bill 55 was introduced by Senator Richard Sears, with the title: “An act relating to the disposition of unlawful and abandoned firearms”. It was merely a placeholder without the guts of the proposed bill.
Before any action was taken, the Parkland, Florida mass murder took place.
The media push for heavy restrictions on firearms and firearms ownership was used as an opportunity to load Bill 55 with severe restrictions on firearms and firearms ownership. It included: bans on magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds for rifles, or 15 rounds for pistols, a ban on almost all private sales of firearms (a sale is not private if it is recorded by a functionary of the government), and a ban on sales of firearms to adults less than 21 years of age.
The act was passed very quickly. Senator Richard Sears voted against it. It will be challenged in the courts.
The reform law to facilitate the sale of the guns that had accumulated under police and state control was part of the new law, and is being implemented. Online auctions to Federal Firearms Licensed dealers have been conducted by the Agency of Administration, Buildings and General Services, Surplus Property.
A provision in the law allows for innocent owners to retrieve their property from the state. They have to prove their innocence before the firearms will be released to them. From legislature.vermont.gov:
§ 2306. RIGHTS OF INNOCENT OWNER
Nothing contained in subsection 2305(b) of this title shall prejudice the rights of the bona fide owner of any unlawful firearm, the disposition of which is governed by that subsection, upon affirmative proof by him or her that he or she had no express or implied knowledge that such unlawful firearm was being or intended to be used illegally or for illegal purposes.
If the bona fide owner provides reasonable and satisfactory proof of his or her ownership and of his or her lack of express or implied knowledge to the commissioner of public safety Commissioner of Public Safety, the unlawful firearm shall be returned to him or her.
It may be difficult to prove “lack of express or implied knowledge”.
An “unlawful firearm” is defined in the legislation as one which was carried or used in violation of any federal or state law. It is likely most of the firearms accumulated are not “unlawful firearms” under that definition.
There is a requirement to pay an undefined “storage fee”. Storage fees could quickly outstrip the value of a firearm, depending on how they are structured. In Australia, storage fees of $25 per week were not uncommon.
The sales of stored firearms have been at the cheapest method, which yields the lowest prices. The method has been to sell by lot, 25 firearms, by email bid from federally licensed dealers. Even with this method, the stored firearms brought in $140 on average.
The law requires 2/3 of the net proceeds to be returned to municipalities, which send their accumulated firearms to the state for processing. It appears little money will be returned to those municipalities.
In June, the Department of Public Safety transferred 366 guns to the new secure storage room, and the email bidding process for the first 25-gun lot began. In the months since, Cole’s department has completed nine sales and off-loaded 225 firearms, bringing in $31,514. Given the costs of administering the program, Cole expects it will still end up costing the department money.
It is not surprising that a government bureaucracy would use up nearly all the money it receives from firearms auctions.
No firearms from municipalities have been sold by the Building and General Services, Surplus Property, as of mid December 2019.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.