During our many reports on the gun fight, we have uncovered a fascinating situation here in the city of Atlanta. Tens of thousands of guns have been confiscated by law enforcement.
They are not being destroyed, and they also aren’t being sold back to the public. There are a lot of layers to this story, but one basic conclusion: the city of Atlanta is breaking state gun law.
This is a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.
It was just a day ago when our Sharon Reed took you into a warehouse where the Atlanta Police Department holds thousands of weapons.
What Sharon couldn’t show was a separate facility where the city of Atlanta is housing another 10,000 guns. Now, here is the point Mayor Kasim Reed and Police Chief George Turner made: that state law prevents them from destroying those guns.
“We are now in the process of storing all the weapons that have cleared our judiciary process. And uh, we believe that it is catastrophic for us to do just that.”
To “do just” what?
See, before 2012, police in cities across Georgia could destroy the guns they confiscated or use them for training. But in 2012, legislators changed that law, forcing police to sell the guns, with the revenue going back to their respective counties.
That was almost three and half years ago. And since then, the city of Atlanta has confiscated well over 10,000 guns.
“Candidly, this has been a difficult issue for me to lead on this because even if we take illegal guns off the street under Georgia state law right now we actually have to return them or make them available to the public in some form,” Mayor Reed said.
But the problem is that the city of Atlanta isn’t doing that. In fact, Sharon Reed asked Chief Turner if even once the city of Atlanta has sold weapons to licensed dealers. And the answer was:
“We cannot destroy weapons we have an obligation according to the new law that we have to maintain those weapons after they’ve been adjudicated,” Turner said. “For instance if we’ve captured or gotten a weapon for evidential purposes after the adjudication of that crime has concluded we have an obligation to resell that, re-bid that out, give that to gun purchasers so that they can resell those. . . . the city of Atlanta has not done that.”
But, reality check, Senate Bill 350, which became Georgia law in 2012, mandates municipal, county and state police authorities return all seized firearms not currently being held as evidence in a criminal investigation to the lawful owner if able.
Per section 3 of SB 350: “If the lawful owner is not found or unable to take possession of the firearm, the law requires that municipalities shall not have the right to reject any and all bids or to cancel any proposed sale of such firearms, and all sales shall be to persons who are licensed as firearms collectors, dealers, importers, or manufacturers.”
The law requires that the city resell those guns, not destroy them, and not just sit on them.
“So you haven’t defied the Georgia legislature… but you’re in a holding pattern,” Sharon Reed asked.
“That is correct,” Turner said.
So, to be clear, it is correct that in three-and-a-half years the city has not sold those confiscated guns to licensed gun dealers. So actually, the city has not defied the Georgia legislature. The city is just breaking the law.
Again, SB 350 Section 3: “In addition, the law requires in no event shall such auctions occur less frequently than once every six months during any time in which the political subdivision or state custodial agency has an inventory of saleable firearms.”
So if what Chief Turner told our Sharon Reed is true, then the mayor and the police chief are clearly breaking Georgia state law. And that’s what you need to know.
Look, I understand this is a complicated subject. But then again, it’s not. If you don’t like state law, work to change it. If you don’t want to sell firearms back into your own community, find licensed dealers out of state to take these weapons.
But to say you morally object to the law and you don’t have to follow it… Chief Turner and Mayor Reed would never allow that same reasoning for the rest of us accused of breaking the law.