Activists Shocked to Learn What Actually Happens to Many Destroyed Firearms

AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, FIle

It pays to read the fine print, whether you’re signing up for a gym membership, financing a car, or putting your name on a contract to have the guns you’ve collected destroyed by a third party. The New York Times has discovered that, contrary to what many gun control activists thought was happening with firearms that have been turned over to companies like Gunbusters, parts from those guns are still being sold to interested parties.


It doesn’t sound like these companies have been keeping this a secret. In fact, total destruction of the guns in question is still an option, so long as the folks handing them over want to pay for that service. If they don’t, Gunbusters will destroy the frame or receiver free of charge, but the other parts of that gun may end up offered for sale. The New York Times calls this a “loophole,” but in reality this is just a part of the standard contract offered by Gunbusters and similar outfits.

In their marketing, gun disposal companies play up their no-cost services, often leaving out the information about parts-selling, which appears in the written contracts. Elected officials rely on their police departments — which typically look to save money — to make the arrangements, and they give perfunctory approval with little or no discussion. In interviews, some officials acknowledged that they had not understood the process but were reluctant to speak publicly now because they had made inaccurate claims for years about guns supposedly being destroyed.

In Spartanburg, South Carolina, where a taxpayer-funded buyback in May collected 128 firearms that were given to Gunbusters, local news stories reported that they would be destroyed at no cost to the city. Police Chief Alonzo Thompson said he was aware that Gunbusters sold most of the parts rather than crushing everything but felt that was acceptable as long as the company complied with ATF regulations.

“But I understand the concerns and those who might feel they’re less than informed,” he said, adding, “My priority is to remove these guns from our community.”


According to the ATF guidelines, destroying the frame or receiver is an “acceptable” way to destroy a firearm, which makes sense given that’s the part of the firearm that makes it a gun under federal law. Gunbusters and other companies with similar practices are destroying firearms free of charge for law enforcement agencies, but gun control groups are still crying foul, with Everytown and Giffords representatives telling the Times they had no idea that this is how the gun destruction process works.

To be fair, I didn’t realize that this was the standard operating procedure for many firearm disposal companies either, but then, I’ve never availed myself of their services so I’ve never had a reason to read the language of these contracts. Still, nothing comes free, so how exactly did the anti-gunners think companies like Gunbusters were able to pay employees if they’re not charging a penny to destroy the firearms turned over to them?

“Our services are free for law enforcement agencies,” said Scott Reed, president of Gunbusters. “If we can’t cover our costs by selling parts, then we charge them.”

Only about 2% of Gunbusters’ clients pay to have the full firearm destroyed, he said. Federal agencies, including the Secret Service, are among them.

Reed likened the recycling of parts to “organ donation,” allowing collectors to repair or maintain their firearms: “The people who are happiest with us are those who need parts for old guns that just aren’t made anymore.”


One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and as it turns out, you can make a pretty hefty profit by taking in these “unwanted” firearms, destroying the frame or receiver, and selling the rest of the parts online. According to the Times, Gunbusters and five of its licensees took in more than $290,000 in three weeks from selling parts on; pretty good work if you can get it.

Of course, now that the paper has discovered the practice, it might soon be more difficult for companies like Gunbusters to get that work. I’m sure the anti-gunners will be looking at establishing a program of their own to ensure the utter annihilation of any firearm collected during a gun “buyback” or compensated confiscation event; either destroying the guns themselves or maybe even creating a new non-profit that will subsidize the destruction of turned-in firearms. If anti-gun billionaires like Michael Bloomberg have the money to fund an in-house law firm and salt academia with anti-gun activists, I’m sure he could cut a check to cover the cost of destroying every gun part as well as the frame or receiver or even create a company of his own that would do the same.

Despite the attempt by the Times to turn this into some sort of scandal, this really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s actually read the contracts from Gunbusters or other companies. This sounds like a case of caveat venditor to me: let the seller beware… and always read the fine print.



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