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Washington considering bill to allow State Patrol to destroy seized guns

Guns are heaped in a pile during the destruction of approximately 3,400 guns and other weapons at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's annual gun melt. (David McNew/Getty Images)

The Washington state legislature is currently considering a bill that would allow state patrol officers to destroy confiscated firearms.

The legislation was introduced Jan. 20 and is currently under consideration by the House Rules Committee.  Ten Democrats and two Republicans are sponsoring the bill.

Washington State Patrol Capt. Monica Alexander said she supports the bill not because she wants fewer people to own guns but because she wants criminals to have less access to them.

"Obviously the state patrol has no problem with people responsibly and legally owning firearms, but it is important for us to do our part and keep citizens safe," Alexander told the Tacoma News Tribune.

The bill would allow Washington State Patrol officers the freedom to exercise "discretion" when it comes to whether to keep, trade, sell or destroy "any forfeited firearm" from a person who is not legally authorized to have a gun, whether because of past criminal history or their mental state.

Right now, the Washington State Patrol is legally permitted to keep up to 10 percent of the firearms it confiscates. The rest are either sold or traded in for pistols, which officers then carry with them. According to KIRO-TV, the state traded 251 confiscated guns, worth $49,377, in 2014 alone.

This benefit to Washington taxpayers is just one reason why some lawmakers oppose the bill:  “These are public goods that have value. By destroying [firearms], you are destroying public money,” Republican state Rep. Dick Muri said.

“My job is to protect the public purse ... to have an attitude that $49,377 a year is not important is just wrong," Muri added, the News Tribune reported.

Republican Rep. Dave Hayes, who is also sergeant with the Snohomish County Sheriff's Department, supports the bill because he said county and local law enforcement already have the option of destroying confiscated firearms, so the state should be able to make that decision as well.

However, Hayes maintained that “the large majority" of confiscated guns should be sold and said he is against the “broad, mass destruction” of forfeited firearms.

Democratic state Rep. Tana Senn pointed pointed out that just because the bill allows confiscated guns to be destroyed doesn't mean they will be.

“It is just an option, not a requirement," Senn told the News Tribune.

During an interview with KIRO, Alexander said the bill would stop the guns in question from falling into the wrong hands. But when asked if there is any history of that actually happening, Alexander admitted there is not. Given that fact, the reporter asked Alexander why she is now advocating for the legislation.

"Because we don't want that history," Alexander replied.

Lars Daleside, spokesman for the National Rifle Association, said the bill is "more of a public statement" than something that will actually reduce crime.

“If you want to make an impact on crime, [then] go after criminals," Daleside told the News Tribune.

Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, suggested to Fox News in December that destroying confiscated weapons all in the name of reducing crime could actually result in more guns: “If there’s a demand to buy firearms, and the city has destroyed these guns, it just helps the firearms industry selling new guns. If you’re anti-gun, it backfires in your face.”

According to a CNN, at least 11 states — North Carolina, Georgia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Michigan, Louisiana, Texas, Kansas, North Dakota, Montana and Arizona — have passed legislation just since 2009 either encouraging or requiring that confiscated guns be sold, not destroyed.

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