The City of Mesa (AZ) and others say "yes" because it seems right.
But it’s 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 master’s 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 support—bad information, lack of information, subtle but seductive errors of logic, and a tenacious attachment to feel-good sophistry.

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 that’s 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 street”—in the sense of an arrested gangster’s 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 more.

These are not the few guns in the evidence locker.

As we’re 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 sales—hardly a gun-reduction strategy. You see, your police are in the gun business, with or without meltdowns.

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 firearm.

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.

Here’s 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 way—who 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 smuggler’s ship is seized at sea you don’t sink it because it was used in a crime—you recycle it through the free market and use the earnings to fight crime. There is every reason to do the same with a firearm—a 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 don’t 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 one?

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 it’s 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 they’d 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 master’s degree with honors from Harvard University.
Alan Korwin is the author of nine books, including The Arizona Gun Owners Guide.
Co-author Richard Shaw holds a masters degree with honors, in Public Administra-tion, from Harvard University. A former president of the nation’s 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, Shooter’s 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 Owner’s 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.
–Alan Korwin

Guns save lives.
Alan Korwin
4848 E. Cactus, #505-440
Scottsdale, AZ 85254
602-996-4020 Phone
602-494-0679 Fax
1-800-707-4020 Orders
Call, fax, mail or email for our free catalog.
We publish the gun laws.
If you knew all your rights you might demand them.



Alan Korwin
4848 E. Cactus, #505-440 • Scottsdale, AZ 85254
602-996-4020 Phone
602-494-0679 Fax
1-800-707-4020 Orders
Order Online 

Call, fax, mail or email for our free catalog.
We publish the gun laws.
If you knew all your rights you might demand them.

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