A change to a state law that stops law enforcement from destroying confiscated weapons should be a local decision, one area sheriff says.
Sheriff Tim Gobble was responding to changes enacted March 4 by Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, who signed a law that deleted the option of allowing weapons confiscated by police to be destroyed. Under the change in the law, weapons can be destroyed only if they're unsafe or inoperable.
"It's probably one of those laws that went through without thinking about the full consequences," the sheriff said.
The option to destroy weapons should be up to local courts and law enforcement, Sheriff Gobble said.
Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Hixson, a prime co-sponsor of the bill, said the legislation stemmed from the requests of gun owners.
"A lot of gun collectors and gun owners wanted to have the ability to buy the weapons (that would have been destroyed)," he said.
An Associated Press report noted that two weapons used in high-profile shootings at the Pentagon and Las Vegas were once seized in Memphis criminal cases.
"That might be a reflection on the Memphis Police Department and how they're getting rid of the weapons more than anything else," Rep. McCormick said, adding that those instances need a closer look and could require more changes to gun laws.
The Chattanooga Police Department confiscated 553 guns last year, and not all were destroyed, police spokeswoman Sgt. Jerri Weary wrote in an e-mail.
Lost or stolen weapons were returned to owners, she wrote. If they don't fall into those categories, weapons confiscated by police also are returned to the manufacturer for discounts on new weapons for the department, she said.
Those that cannot be traded will be used as backup weapons for officers, she wrote.
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond said he would have to further review the law before commenting on how it might affect weapons disposal, but said all decisions regarding firearms are mandated by the courts.
Most weapons confiscated by law enforcement are poor quality and dangerous, he said.
"Most of (the firearms) are not ones you'd want on the street," he said.
Sheriff Gobble had another concern, that those weapons' missing serial numbers could be sent back into circulation. The sheriff, recognized in NRA magazine in 2008 for supporting gun rights, said weapons without serial numbers should be destroyed.