Could Georgia law put confiscated guns back on the streets?

Could Georgia law put confiscated guns back on the streets?
Published: May. 14, 2015 at 8:31 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 13, 2015 at 9:23 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - No one will argue that gun violence is a problem in Savannah.

Hundreds of guns used in crimes are confiscated by law enforcement every year, and you might think those guns are destroyed. However, that's not the case.

The law says if the gun does not have a rightful owner, police are supposed to sell them to licensed dealers. But the law hasn't always been that way.

Before 2012, police 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 money going back to the county

"Something like this will ultimately be sold again," said CNT agent Gene Harley.

Harley pulled out a number of confiscated guns, which will soon be sold to licensed dealers at an online auction. Because of the change in the law, what used to be destroyed is now up for sale.

"We had a large amount of flexibility of what we could do with those firearms," Harley said.

Before the law changed in 2012, law enforcement agencies would either destroy the guns that were used to commit crimes, or they would put them to use within the department.

"Some of these firearms would have likely been used by CNT and would have been put back into circulation, ultimately cut down on tax payer cost, but again we can only go with what the law says we can do," Harley said.

The law says they can no longer destroy or keep any of the guns they confiscate, they must sell them, but they may only see a fraction of the profit. In the last two years the county has made nearly $7,000 from gun sales, but that money goes into the county's general fund.

And while the law was created to boost revenue for local municipalities, there's still the lingering question: what if these guns end up in the wrong hands again?

"You know every day firearms are illegally purchased, so all we can do is operate within the laws of the State of Georgia and hope that we don't recover these firearms again in yet another CNT operation,” Harley said.

And just to be clear, the county sells these guns to dealers who have a federal firearm license.

Since this new law was implemented, 237 guns have been confiscated, and 70 guns have been sold and nearly $6,700 has gone back to the county. But CNT agents say they are currently storing about 800 guns because agencies are required to hold weapons for four years after the date of conviction before they can sell them.

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