Austin aims to end practice of selling police firearms back into the public market

%INLINE%In 2016, the Austin Police Department, with City Council approval, traded 1,788 .40 caliber pistols back to its gun dealer and police estimate that over 1,100 may have been sold back to the public.

Austin City Council wants to ensure that never happens again. On Thursday, it will consider a resolution that eliminates the possibility a firearm once issued by the Austin Police Department ends up anywhere but in an officer’s possession or as a piece of scrap metal.

The City Council discussion on Tuesday followed Monday’s Public Safety Commission meeting where commissioners recommended City Council terminate the provision of the city’s contract with the Houston-based gun dealer Bailey’s Firearm Country Inc., that allowed for trade-ins or sellbacks.

“We don’t want our police department contributing guns out into the community,” District 10 Council Member Alison Alter said. “If our guns are in good condition we should not sell them. We should continue to use them.”

According to a letter from Austin’s assistant police chief Troy Gay, 2016’s trade-in of 1,7888 Smith and Wesson .40 caliber pistols came when the department changed their standard pistol from the .40 caliber to a 9 millimeter. Gay estimated the department saved $368,328 by trading the guns in.

“[Terminating the provision] does keep us from an avenue in being able to mitigate some of the cost, but … one life is certainly to be valued at a much higher fashion,” Austin police Cmdr. Mark Spangler said on Monday.

Commissioner Ed Scruggs on Monday said although the practice was not common for the Austin Police Department, 15 of the 20 largest police departments in Texas participate in trade-in or sellback programs as a revenue saver. However, he said Austin’s 2016 trade-in was of unusually large scale.

Commissioner Kim Rossmo said although he understands the symbolic nature of the action, he doubted it would have much of a public safety impact.

“I don’t think we should say this is going to make any impact given the very high level of gun availability in the state of Texas,” Rossmo said.

Scruggs said old police firearms are highly desired in the public market because they are high-quality weapons at a cheaper price and have usually been well maintained.

“The fact that these weapons go out there and then we don’t know where they go, that’s a big part of this,” Scruggs said.

If City Council passes the resolution on Thursday, the sellback and trade-in provisions of the contract with the Houston-based dealer will be terminated immediately. Instead, the firearms will need to be stored or broken down and sold as scrap metal.

However, the department would still be able to purchase its firearms from the dealer.


From FOX 7's reporting partner Community Impact.