WKYT Investigates: Revolving guns

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - Former State Representative Bob Damron sponsored legislation more than eight years ago that required police departments to send confiscated firearms to Kentucky State Police to sale in an auction.

"It's been a no-nonsense, good government provision," Damron told WKYT's Miranda Combs.

The guns come from police agencies all over the state. All of the guns have a different story; most of them were involved in a crime. Some of the crimes are more minor than others, and that’s where things get complicated.

Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson doesn't mind most guns going to auction, but he's opposed to auctioning what he calls "killer guns."

"Don't auction those. Why? Because the families of victims or the victims of assaults don't want those guns back on the street," Larson said.

Last week, WKYT went to one of the auctions, which are only open to federally licensed gun dealers. Dealers bid on the more than 400 guns that were being sold. WKYT talked to several gun dealers after they bought the guns. None of the gun dealers were bothered by the troubled pasts that could be connected to the guns. Many said it was a good business opportunity, and they pointed out that the weapons are not to blame for the crimes.

"The term these people like to use is these auctions put the guns back on the street. They don't just put them back on the street, they're run through the system." said Greg Riggs who has been shooting guns since he was three years old.

Riggs, a licensed dealer in Frankfort, said the guns he bought at the auction will be logged into his record book to be checked by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

"It doesn't matter to me if it was used in a crime then they're taking it away from the criminal. The criminal doesn't have it anymore."

Larson said he pitched a proposal to Damron a couple of years ago, wanting guns that killed someone or injured or killed police or firefighters to be destroyed. The proposal didn't go anywhere.

"Where do you draw the line?" Damron asked. "Is that gun more offensive than a gun used in a robbery?" Damron said he wouldn't have supported the proposal at the time. Larson said he's going to pitch it again.

"This has to do with getting rid of guns that kill somebody because it's a monstrous nightmare for families that have lost loved ones to think that that gun is still on the street somewhere," Larson said.

"They're just an inanimate object. The people committed the crimes. They just use these as tools," said Steve Laux, a dealer that came down from Ohio to buy guns last week. "they are just metal and steel and wood. They don't have a mind or desire."

Larson argues the amount of guns used in murders and police and firefighter assaults wouldn't amount to much if they were removed from the auctions. "If that's what they want to do, do it. But not with the killer guns or guns that shoot law enforcement or firefighters."

State police said the auctions typically bring in about $650,000 a year. Twenty percent goes to state police for holding the auction. Trooper Paul Blanton said it comes out to about $100,000 for KSP and that money goes to buy bullet proof vests. The other 80 percent goes into a grant available for all police agencies in Kentucky to buy vests and other resources.

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