Friday, September 24, 1999

Cities reconsider gun trade-ins


Forest Park delays action, plans study

BY SARA J. BENNETT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FOREST PARK — City leaders faced a quandary last month: How could they reduce the chance that handguns they no longer needed would one day fall into the hands of criminals?

        A committee discussed several options this week, then decided to delay any action. Instead, officials will study how other communities dis pose of outdated police weapons.

        In light of a recent Los Angeles incident, though, some may be looking at Forest Park for ideas.

        “There's definitely interest within the (law enforcement) community,” said Al Schaefer, president of the Hamilton County Police Association. “A lot of departments may sit back and take an approach of, "Let's see what they're going to do.'”

        The issue arose last month after Buford O. Furrow Jr. used a police trade-in semiautomatic handgun to kill a postal worker and shoot five at a Los Angeles day-care center.

        Soon after, Forest Park City Council rejected a police plan to trade five semiautomatic handguns for new rifles from a federally licensed firearms dealer.

        Trades are common at many police agencies, and they save money by defraying the cost of new weapons. But council members worried the guns might be resold, then used in a crime.

        Council referred the matter to Forest Park's Public Improvements and Facilities Committee.

        Options considered include:

        • Destroying the weapons.

        • Selling them to Forest Park police officers.

        • Trading with the stipulation they be resold only to other law enforcement agencies.

        • Keeping the weapons.

        None of the five pistols in question is in immediate need of disposal.

        With the need for urgent action eliminated, the committee decided to delay a decision six months, Chairman Jim Lawler said. Police Chief Ken Hughes was asked to research how other departments are handling such situations.

        “It's never been an issue in the past,” said Mark Dill, a Fort Thomas Police lieutenant. His department wants to trade 22 semiautomatic handguns, and is grappling with ways to ensure the weapons don't fall into the wrong hands.

        “We want to do it in a way that gives us some assurance they're not going to be put on the street pointed at us,” he said.

        Cincinnati Vice Mayor Minette Cooper recently called for a comprehensive policy monitoring the disposal or trade-in of police firearms.

        The city either sells them to Cincinnati officers or trades them to the manufacturer for newer weapons, Safety Director Kent A. Ryan said.

       

        Whatever policies communities adopt will have a small impact on gun violence, Mr. Hughes said. The Wall Street Journal found that about 1,100 of the 193,000 firearms used in crimes and traced by the federal Bureau of Tobacco and Firearms in 1998 once belonged to police departments.

        But Michael Bonney, a Forest Park councilman who sat on this week's committee, thinks the issue is important, and not one to be handled in a rush.

        “I think we did the right thing by waiting,” he said. “This will give us the opportunity possibly for some dialogue between the communities ... perhaps get some different ideas we didn't think of.”

       



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