Raleigh, N.C. — State House lawmakers voted Wednesday to forbid law enforcement officers from destroying fully-operating firearms, even if they were used in a crime.
House Bill 714, "Disposal of Abandoned Firearms," says that, if a firearm is fully functioning and still has a legible identification number, sheriffs and other law enforcement officers cannot destroy it, regardless of its background.
Instead, they would have to sell it at a public auction to a licensed dealer or permit-holder, keep it for department use or training or donate it to a museum or historical society.
Judges would no longer have the authority to order the destruction of a weapon confiscated in a criminal case.
Supporters, including sponsor Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, R-Mecklenberg, say it's "fiscally responsible" to keep or sell the weapons.
But Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, questioned whether state law enforcement groups support the bill.
"I guess they’re going to have to hire someone to see if [the guns] are fully operable," Jackson said. "Are they going to jam? Is the aim right?
"You’re selling a potentially dangerous product, and you’re requiring the sheriffs to do this," he said. "These are firearms that have been used in a crime."
The North Carolina Sheriffs' Association neither supports nor opposes the bill.
The bill passed the House with strong bipartisan support, 91-22. It now goes to the Senate.
The measure has the backing of the National Rifle Association, which has threatened to sue to stop cities from destroying guns taken in during buyback programs designed to get guns off streets.
It also has the backing of the corporate free-market group ALEC, which adopted as model legislation a similar measure passed in Arizona.