Why are North Carolina police departments warehousing nearly 75,000 guns?

Why are North Carolina police departments warehousing nearly 75,000 guns?
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Thanks to a law passed with bipartisan support a decade ago, police departments across the state of North Carolina are not allowed to destroy firearms that are recovered in criminal cases, even after those cases have been closed. Instead, departments can sell those firearms to federally licensed firearms dealers or keep ahold of them. While many law enforcement agencies in the state regularly sell these firearms and use the proceeds to help fund the department, the Charlotte News & Observer has discovered that nearly 75,000 firearms are being warehoused; primarily by departments in the state’s largest cities.

In Charlotte/Mecklenburg County, for example, about 25,000 firearms are currently in the custody of police.

“We are at a critical mass,” said Charlotte Major Brad Koch.
Prior to the 2013 law, once a relevant criminal case was finished, firearms that could not be returned to their owners could be destroyed.
Now, the guns are growing liabilities spilling out of the evidence room, wrote Mike Allinger, a spokesperson for Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, in an email to The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer.
“When the number of firearms stored increases weekly, the level of responsibility and liability increases as well,” he wrote.
With more than 25,000 guns locked up, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has the largest stockpile among cities. Just like other police departments, the firearms have been found or collected as evidence and held for safekeeping, Allinger wrote in an email.
Storing 25,000 guns is also a drain on the city’s resources, as every firearm has to be tracked and easily located in a space not designed for those kinds of numbers, he wrote.
Greensboro’s facility was designed for about 3,000 guns, but they have ended up with nearly 11,000.
That’s better than them being on the street being used in crimes, said police spokesperson Josie Cambareri.
“We would like to be able to destroy any guns; not just the ones the law allows now,” Cambareri wrote.
Fayetteville, which has nearly 9,000 guns in storage, recently spent about $50,000 on “rolling storage shelves,” to store additional weapons, Police Chief Gina
Hawkins wrote in a statement to The News & Observer before she retired recently.
Last year, the Durham Police Chief asked for more than $80,000 to increase storage space, in part to accommodate the about 8,400 guns the city has stored.
Gosh, if only there was something the department could do, like, I dunno, sell them as the law allows.
If the guns “spilling out of the evidence room” are really growing liabilities due to the risk of theft or loss, the easiest thing to do would be to get rid of them. No, departments can’t destroy the guns, but there are plenty of agencies across the state that are choosing to sell these firearms to FFLs instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars to keep them locked up.
Police departments in Cary, High Point and Concord sell their weapons.
Cary has sold 47 over the past 12 months. Concord sold 296 in 2021 and 2022. High Point has sold 1,041 since 2014.
Guns confiscated by High Point police are transferred to a Kentucky-based business Bud’s Police Supply FFL through auction services and sold through open bidding, according to spokesperson Victoria Ruvio.
The High Point Police Department traces all guns that come in, and they have no known instance of a firearm being sold and then returning back into their possession, Ruvio wrote.
Meanwhile, the sale of those firearms has generated tens of thousands of dollars for both the local schools and local police. And since the firearms are transferred to an FFL, every buyer has to go through a background check before the sale can be completed, which should alleviate the supposed concerns of big city chiefs.
The News & Observer story makes it sound like this is a crisis for departments like the Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD, but if it is it’s one entirely of their own creation. They don’t have to hang on to every firearm found or recovered at a crime scene, and the Republican-led legislature hasn’t shown any interest in repealing the ten-year-old law ( that forbids the destruction of these weapons. These departments have two options: keep the guns locked away forevermore or allow them to be sold to responsible citizens who pass a background check before they take possession. If that second option is unacceptable for the powers that be in cities like Charlotte, that’s on them… and it’s a pretty clear indication of just how hostile they are to the right to keep and bear arms in general.