Are Miami police breaking law with "Guns 4 Ukraine" buyback?

AP Photo/Pavel Dorogoy

Gun buybacks don’t work. Numerous studies show that they don’t, but they remain popular with some segments of the population because it allows them to appear they’re addressing violent crime without, you know, addressing violent crime.

At times, there have been questions about the legality of some of these events, but one in Miami may be taking the case.

It seems the Miami Police Department is looking at potentially breaking both state and federal laws with it, as the Second Amendment Foundation’s Lee Williams reports.

The Miami Police Department plans to hold a gun buyback this Saturday at Miami City Hall, which it is calling “GUNS 4 UKRAINE.” Police are offering gift cards in exchange for the weapons: $50 for a handgun, $100 for a shotgun or rifle and $150 for what the department calls a “high powered rifle (.223 caliber, AR-15, AK-47).”

According to Miami Police Public Information Officer K. Fallat – who declined to provide her first name – the firearms “bought back” will be sent to the Ukrainian military to help in their war against Russia.

“It is my understanding that the guns are going to be shipped off to Ukraine,” Officer Fallat said Wednesday.

Therein lies the problem: shipping firearms to a foreign country without proper export license violates federal law, specifically the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, known as ITAR.

It also violates Florida Statute 790.08, which regulates what police can do with firearms or other weapons that come under their control. Basically, they can use the weapons, loan them to another law enforcement agency, destroy them or sell them, but the statute requires them to deposit all money raised from the sale into the state treasury earmarked for the benefit of the State School Fund. The state statute does not allow them to ship the arms to a foreign military.

The officer in question was unfamiliar as to whether there was a plan to comply with ITAR or not, but there was even less apparent understanding about following state law.

Look, this whole “we’re going to send them to Ukraine” thing is idiotic. We know they’re not going to send them because, as noted, they can’t. Not without jumping through a whole lot of hoops with the State Department–hoops that may be impossible to jump through anyway–and not without breaking state regulations on what can happen with such firearms.

The question then becomes, so what will happen if ITAR and state law aren’t complied with?

The answer, I fear, is nothing. The laws apply to you and me, but not to people like the Miami police. They get to play by a different set of rules than you or I do.

Look, I have no issue with people turning over their guns for very little money so they can be sent to Ukraine. I support anyone who stands up to foreign aggression, especially the way Ukrainians have. But the law is the law and we’re all supposed to follow it.

That includes police in Miami, Des Moines, or anywhere else.

If they don’t, may they be hammered with the full force of the law.