The City of Mesa (AZ) and others
say "yes" because it seems right.
But its better to turn swords into plowshares
by Alan Korwin and Richard Shaw
For Publication, 1,107 Words
October 24, 2002
One-time North American Serial Rights
Copyright 2002 Alan Korwin and Richard Shaw
Not-for-profit circulation approved
Richard Shaw holds a masters
degree with honors from Harvard University,
and is a prominent Arizona businessman.
Alan Korwin is a full-time free-lance writer and author of
nine books, including Gun Laws of America.
Confiscated firearms should not be melted down. It may seem counterintuitive,
but the net public benefit of meltdowns is nil. It backfires on our crime-fighting
abilities by cutting off the revenue that firearm sales generate. And
especially now that the Brady law requires gun buyers to be FBI-certified,
there is no excuse for destroying such a substantial public asset, as
Mesa and many Arizona cities are doing.
Why do so many people and politicians believe that melting down guns is
a good idea? For the same reason so many other poorly grounded ideas circulate
and receive supportbad information, lack of information, subtle
but seductive errors of logic, and a tenacious attachment to feel-good
The seek-and-destroy school says, quite convincingly, that melting down
guns gets them off the streets, and that this is good. This
is pure fiction. Confiscating guns used during crimes, not melting them,
is what gets them off the street.
The unfortunate fact is that most gun crimes are never solved, arrests
are never made, and criminals weapons remain in the underworld.
When Janet Reno was promoting the notion that crime might be dropping,
we still made only one arrest for every four crimes, and thats only
for reported crimes. To get more guns off the street, figure
out how to confiscate more from people who misuse them. The final disposition
of the seized weapons is immaterial.
Far more significant is the fact that only a tiny percentage of police-held
firearms come from the streetin the sense of an arrested
gangsters still-smoking weapon. Most police-inventoried firearms
were never on the street. They are recovered stolen property, lost private
property, abandonments, dealers inventories from foreclosures, confiscations
from RICO seizures, firearms turned in by disinterested family members
after a relative passes on, firearm forfeitures from citizens with any
form of felony conviction, the result of weapon-buy-back programs and
These are not the few guns in the evidence locker.
As were all painfully aware, arrests barely keep the perpetrators
off the streets. No one seriously believes that those criminals, once
released, cannot obtain firearms because their original guns were melted.
Police confiscations simply do not prevent criminals from re-arming themselves.
So does American society at least enjoy a benefit from a reduction in
firearms, as meltdowns theoretically accomplish and some people claim?
No, because no reduction takes place. Any level of market demand not met
by melted guns is filled by imports and newly manufactured ones. Manufacturers
tend to support meltdowns because it bolsters saleshardly a gun-reduction
strategy. You see, your police are in the gun business, with or without
Most important however, is the fact that the guns sold by law enforcement
agencies are not just dumped onto some street in a bad part of town, as
hysterical fear mongers would have you believe, and the news media mindlessly
conveys. They are resold subject to the Brady law. Criminals cannot simply
walk into a gun shop (or a police station!) and purchase a police-recycled
Police resales go into the hands of honest people like you and I, who
use firearms for self-defense, sport, recreation, competition, collecting
and all the other legitimate reasons for gun ownership, through normal
and taxed retail channels, the same as new firearms. If a person can get
a gun from some mercenary low-life NRA-backed dealer, they certainly ought
to be able to get one from their own police.
Heres the surprising plus. When law-abiding citizens purchase police-recycled
firearms instead of new guns, they are contributing to the financial health
of their police departments. The revenue goes directly to the teams that
fight crime instead of gun makers here and overseas. The money gets spent
either waywho would you rather have get it? The socially responsible
consumer who buys a gun from the police is doing something to take a bite
out of crime.
Anti-crime funding occurs, however, only in jurisdictions where resales
to the public are permitted and the revenue from those sales revert to
the police who generated them.
When a smugglers ship is seized at sea you dont sink it because
it was used in a crimeyou recycle it through the free market and
use the earnings to fight crime. There is every reason to do the same
with a firearma machine with the same high potential for good or
evil as, say, a getaway car.
Politicians act as if they can just burn public property if they dont
like it for some reason. It is unconscionable to destroy heirlooms, collectibles,
recovered property, historical or extremely valuable firearms from police
inventories for... for what? To get them off a street they were never
on? Do we gain by turning a gun into slag and making an identical new
We gain nothing by destroying public property, but we do hamper our ability
to fight crime. This is not good. The asset represented by police-inventoried
firearms can and should be resold to the law-abiding public, screened
by the FBI under the Brady law, and the fruits of those sales should go
directly to the fight against crime.
Police departments around this country are so hard pressed for funds its
a national disgrace. The ones who have lost the condemned-property income
that firearms sales used to provide, thanks to recent feel-good-do-nothing
legislation, lament the loss. Ask if theyd like the extra bullet-proof
apparel, the training ammo, the modern semi-automatics, the microscopes,
the portable fingerprinting gear and the tactical equipment the sales
used to provide.
Things were so bad in American Fork, Utah, the police there traded arms
for jumper cables for their squad cars. In Tucson, the DARE program successfully
relied on resold arms for funding for many years.
One small-town Massachusetts police chief put it succinctly, We
can melt down all the firearms in our vault for political correctness
or we can exchange them, minus a few crime guns and sawed off shotguns,
for body armor, which we otherwise cannot afford to buy, for the protection
of our officers. It goes on across America. We are denying our police
resources they need to carry on. It is a terrible waste. It is inexcusable.
The plain fact is that recycling police property-office firearms to other
police agencies or to honest citizens does not increase the numbers of
crimes committed or their frequency, the choices of weapons used, availability
of weapons to criminals, lethality of armed attacks, nothing.
The way some politicians behave you would think the Second Amendment grants
a right to melt guns. Reducing police resources by melting down a public
asset is a terrible policy choice and should be rejected categorically.
Richard Shaw holds a masters degree with honors from Harvard University.
Alan Korwin is the author of nine books, including The Arizona Gun Owners
Co-author Richard Shaw holds a masters degree with honors, in Public Administra-tion,
from Harvard University. A former president of the nations largest
Industrial Development Agency, the $2 billion Maricopa County IDA, he
is a lawyer admitted to practice in California. Shaw was co-owner of the
Pensus Group, an investment management company which, as part of $250
million in domestic and international projects, owned and operated a law-enforcement
supply distributorship and the largest indoor firearms facility in the
United States, Shooters World in Phoenix, Ariz.
Scottsdale-based co-author Alan Korwin is a full-time free-lance writer
specializing in business, technical, news and promotional communication
since 1984. He has authored nine books. His first, The Arizona Gun Owners
Guide, describes the gun laws of Arizona in plain English, and has become
the standard reference work on the subject, now in its 20th edition. He
has since completed similar guides for CA, FL, TX and VA, along with an
unabridged guide to federal gun law, Gun Laws of America.
No nation has the right to keep and bear arms unless
its people have the right to keep and bear arms.
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