Law enforcement in North Carolina will no longer be allowed to destroy donated, unclaimed or confiscated firearms under a new law that took effect this month dubbed the “save the gun” law.
The “save the gun” law or as it’s officially known, House Bill 714, states that police departments may sell or auction unclaimed or seized firearms to licensed gun dealers, use them for training or otherwise re-purpose them, but they are prohibited from destroying them so long as they are in good working order, the serial numbers are not scratched off or missing and they are not connected to a crime.
HB 714 cleared the GOP-controlled state Legislature with ease back in June, passing by a vote of 48-1 in the Senate and 96-16 in the House.
Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer (R-Mecklenburg), the bill’s main sponsor, made a simple but compelling argument on why the guns should be sold and/or kept by law enforcement.
“It seems fiscally responsible to maintain it,” Schaffer told WRAL.com.
However, critics of the bill were worried about a clause that removes a judge’s power to decide what law enforcement agencies can do with the firearms. But efforts to amend the bill to give a judge the ultimate say on what happens to a firearm were defeated as the law was being debated, thanks in large part to the National Rifle Association’s grassroots activism.
“It is critical for you to contact your state Representative TODAY and urge her or him to oppose any efforts to amend H 714 in a way that will allow any discretion by judges or law enforcement to destroy lawful functioning firearms,” said an alert from the NRA’s legislative back in May.
States that have similar laws banning the destruction of workable seized firearms include Kentucky, which passed its anti-gun destruction bill in 1998, and Arizona, which approved its law earlier this year. Ohio is one state that is currently reviewing a “save the gun” law.
“Firearms are property. When law enforcement agencies destroy firearms, they are destroying assets,” said Ohio state Rep. John Becker (R-Union Gap) when introducing a “save the gun” law in June.
“At a time when budgets are tight, it makes no more sense to destroy firearms than it does to destroy office furniture, vehicles, computers or other assets that are generally sold or auctioned off when they are no longer needed,” he continued.
Law enforcement agencies in North Carolina will still conduct buyback events on occasion. However, some police officials have voiced concern that the new law will negatively impact public safety.
At a recent buyback in Wilmington, North Carolina, a resident named Eli Gutierrez turned in his .38-caliber pistol.
“Basically, I want to get it destroyed,” Gutierrez told the Wilmington Star-News.
Linda Rawley, a spokeswoman for the department agreed with Gutierrez, telling WUNC radio that “It’s always been safest for us to be able to destroy them.”
“But we will follow the law, and we will make sure that we abide by whatever is necessary,” she added.
Meanwhile, other new pro-gun laws are scheduled to take effect in the Tar Heel State, including a measure that allows CHL holders to carry into bars and restaurants provided they don’t consume alcohol and the establishment doesn’t expressly prohibit concealed carry.
Additionally, starting in October, CHL holders will be allowed to store firearms in their vehicles while on the campus of any public school or university. Law-abiding gun owners will also be allowed to carry concealed on greenways, playgrounds and other public recreation areas.