CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has thousands of confiscated firearms stored in their facilities, according to Chief Kerr Putney.
In an interview with WBTV anchor Molly Grantham, Putney explained why the department is keeping the confiscated guns locked behind closed doors when some of the firearms could be sold to vendors.
“I don’t want to be responsible for having one of those weapons take a life here in Charlotte when we could have done something that’s within our purview because of a law enforcement reason to keep that from happening and that’s what I stand by,” said Putney.
The police chief said his department currently has around 18,000 guns safely stored in CMPD facilities.
Legislation in North Carolina regulates what law enforcement agencies are allowed to do with confiscated firearms.
According to the 2013 law, law enforcement has multiple options when it comes to the handling of the confiscated firearms that are no longer needed for a trial or an investigation and don’t have a rightful owner.
The legislation dictates that law enforcement can destroy a confiscated firearm, but only if it is unsafe to use the gun or the gun no longer has an identification number. The law also states that a law enforcement agency can sell the confiscated firearm to federally licensed firearm dealers. A third option allows for law enforcement to keep confiscated guns for training or experimental purposes. The guns can also be donated to a museum or historical society.
“The law is pretty clear. They want vendors to be able to resell guns,” said Putney. “I think it’s wrong-headed. I’m never gonna break the law, but I am gonna say we have a law enforcement reason where we shouldn’t be adding more weapons to the hands of young people.”
When questioned about the legality of his decision to keep the confiscated firearms locked away, Putney defended the department’s actions, citing a ‘law enforcement reason’ as the reason why CMPD is keeping the guns behind closed doors. He maintains that he is following the law.
“There’s a law enforcement reason why I’m not putting them out there. Mainly, it is to make sure our people are trained and understand what they’re dealing with when they encounter weapons and because I think it is a public safety hazard to keep putting more and more guns that we’re seizing, many of which were illegal that we’re seizing, and then turning them back and reselling them.”
Larry Hyatt, the owner of Hyatt Gun Shop in Charlotte, said he has purchased firearms from law enforcement agencies in years past. He said he understands how some people might not like the legislation regulating the sale of confiscated firearms.
“On the one hand you’ve got some valuable collector and historical guns sitting at the police department. You would hate to see them just melted and ruined and the money lost and the history lost," explained Hyatt. "On the other hand, the politicians are so worried that if one gun is resold and used in a crime it could come back to haunt them and make them look bad.”
According to the National Rifle Association, the following states have legislation pertaining to the handling of confiscated firearms similar to North Carolina’s law:
“Police destruction of firearms is unnecessary and wasteful,” said NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen."There is no reason any police department can’t resell those firearms to law abiding citizens and use the money for any number of things - infrastructure, law enforcement training, equipment, etc."
The CMPD notes that many of the confiscated guns are stolen firearms. They encourage all firearm owners to keep their guns safely locked away when they are not being used.