Is Atlanta Illegally Hoarding Confiscated Guns?!

Atlanta gun confiscation

When a gun gets confiscated by police, it is forfeited from the owner.  The type of forfeiture can be either civil or criminal but once a gun is taken, it’s now in custody of the police.  According to Georgia law, that gun must be sold at auction to raise money for the county it came from.  It cannot be kept and stored indefinitely by the police.

Reality Check did a great investigative piece where they peered into the depths of the Atlanta Police Department’s gun confiscation program.  Apparently, Atlanta PD is confiscating guns and then just keeping them indefinitely.  It’s not releasing them for sale at an auction and it’s not using them as training aides or anything else.

As enforcers of the law, police are sworn to uphold and defend both the constitution of the United States as well as the laws of the state and jurisdiction they’re in.  Violating these provisions of Georgia law — specifically the part about releasing the guns for auction — both robs the counties and the city of valuable revenue.

But what’s their rationale?

State law prohibits the Atlanta Police Department from destroying those confiscated guns.

“We are currently in the process of storing all the guns which have cleared the judiciary process,” the Chief of Police for Atlanta, George N. Turner, told Reality Check.  “And we believe it is catastrophic for us to do just that.”

So, there you have it.  The Chief of Police for the City of Atlanta thinks this is a bad deal.

Senate Bill 350, which became law in 2012, mandates that municipal and county law enforcement either return the firearms or make them available to the public.  They cannot be destroyed or used as training aids.

“If the lawful owner is not found or unable to take possession of the firearm, the law requires that municipalities shall not have the right to reject any and all bids or to cancel any proposed sale of such firearms, and all sales shall be to persons who are licensed as firearms collectors, dealers, importers, or manufacturers.”

SB 350, Section 3

And according to Ben Swann of Reality Check, the City of Atlanta has retained over 3 1/2 years worth of confiscated guns that have cleared the adjudication process.  They have not allowed a single purchase or bid from licensed dealers.  And according to the Chief of Police, they’re in a holding pattern.

In addition, the law requires in no event shall such auctions occur less frequently than once every six months during any time in which the political subdivision or state custodial agency has an inventory of saleable firearms.

SB 350, Section 3

So, according to Georgia law, the City of Atlanta is in clear violation of the law.  Neither Mayor Kassim Reid nor the Chief of Police appear to be in any way moved by this nor do they seem pressured by a clear violation of the law to act in accordance with it.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Who watches the watchmen?

It only begs the further question that if the Atlanta Police Department’s leadership seem unphased by this massive oversight in law enforcement — what else have they decided to ignore?