CBS News Wants You Terrified of Cops Selling Old Guns

AP Photo/Marco Garcia, File

If you want to upgrade your car, what do you do with your old one? Most of us either trade it in or sell it. It just makes financial sense to offset the cost of something new by getting rid of something old.

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This is perfectly normal, and governments do it all the time. I've seen plenty of people rolling around town in a vehicle that still has a light spot on the door from where it was serving some local agency and a buddy of mine recently sent me a link to where the DOD is auctioning off a large disk sander here in town.

Guns are another place where this happens regularly, though differently. Police departments looking to make a change have to do something with their old guns. They either sell them to offset the spending for the new guns or they trade them in.

I've known a number of folks who had guns marked as having belonged to a police department.

But it seems CBS News wants you terrified of this practice. Then again, they're working with The Trace.

One way law enforcement works to protect and serve is by getting guns out of the hands of criminals, but we've discovered each year that thousands of guns once used by officers have been discovered at crime scenes.

CBS News partnered with nonprofit newsrooms The Trace and Reveal. We surveyed 200 police agencies nationwide and found a majority sell their guns when they decide to upgrade their arsenal.

What about our local law enforcement and the possibility these guns could have ended up at crime scenes?

Over a 16-year period, ending in 2022, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives identified more than 52,000 guns recovered from crime scenes that were once used by police agencies.

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This particular one focuses on Pennsylvania, but there are also ones for Miami and Minneapolis as well. 

Then we have the big wrap-up to this series where they say this:

Law enforcement agencies are selling and trading their old duty weapons — often to cut costs when upgrading. A side effect: tens of thousands of those guns have wound up in the hands of criminals. 

They've been used in shootings, domestic violence incidents, and other violent crimes, according to records obtained from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and hundreds of U.S. police agencies. 


Internal ATF records show at least 52,529 police guns turned up at crime scenes since 2006, the earliest year data is available from the government. 

CBS News journalists surveyed state and local law enforcement agencies coast to coast and found at least 145 agencies resold their guns between 2006 and 2022. That's about 90% of the agencies that responded. 

So that sounds like a lot of guns and, to be fair, it is.

But it's a lot of guns over a 16-year timespan. That's a pretty long period of time. When you break it down to the average number per year, you get 3,283 firearms annually can be traced back to firearms initially purchased by law enforcement.

Again, that sounds like a lot. Yet if you put it in some perspective, it's not.

In 2021, the ATF reported there were 460,024 firearms recovered by police. Admittedly, that's a high number based on the timespan provided there, but if the average holds up across the years--it won't, of course, because that's not how averages work--then we're looking at fewer than one percent of firearms were originally purchased by police.

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Funny how that doesn't make it in the report.

"But these guns are used for horrible things."

Sure, but how often?

See, when you talk about guns recovered by police, we don't know how they were recovered. Were they found at the scene of a triple homicide or were they in some gang-banger's pants when they frisked him?

And yes, these horrible crimes are still horrible, but the question not being asked here is would these criminals have still gotten a gun without the police selling their old firearms? The answer is yes.

What we have here is a concerted effort by CBS News to work with an anti-gun organization--The Trace--and Reveal which is about as anti-gun as The Trace, if not more so. As such, their goal is to twist the nature of what's happening and frame it in the most alarming light.

First, "police guns" aren't just sold out of the trunk of a squad car to anyone who has the cash. They're sold either back to the manufacturer or distributor or sold through a gun store. That means a background check is conducted on each and every sale of a firearm originally owned by law enforcement.

Not only did police departments do nothing wrong here, all the laws being pushed to stop criminals from getting guns--laws pushed by people at The Trace and CBS News--applied on these sales, at least initially.

And yet, criminals still got them.

The goal here is simple. They want police to stop offsetting the expense of new firearms by selling off their own guns. For you and me, this could have a far-reaching impact on the supply of used guns, driving up the costs as supply shrinks, thus depriving poorer Americans of the opportunity to buy a gun so as to defend themselves.

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But moreover, the problem is that the argument itself is just plain stupid. We're looking at a tiny, minute percentage of these guns turning up in criminal hands. In fact, if you told someone there was a one percent chance of something bad happening in any other circumstance, they wouldn't blink. They'd take that as there being no risk at all.

So CBS News can push this narrative if they want, but the math isn't in their favor.

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