Where Guns Go To Die

by Diane Dimond on June 15, 2009

Confiscated Guns

Confiscated Guns

We want police to get dangerous guns off the street, right?  Well, they are – in record numbers. Now the problem is what to do with all those confiscated guns.

A routine traffic stop yields a rifle in plain sight in the back seat of a car driven by a convicted felon.

A domestic abuse call uncovers two unlicensed pistols inside a home where a woman has called 911 after being battered by her husband.

A take down of a local drug dealing operation nets police a cache of illegal weapons – from semi-automatic to half a dozen 357 Magnums.

What happens to all those weapons? First, they’re stored as evidence until disposition of each criminal case in question. Then, once they’re no longer

Guns Bound For Destruction

Guns Bound For Destruction

needed it’s up to each department to decide what to do with them.

You’d think with all the white hot heat surrounding gun control in this country we’d have a uniform policy on this. We don’t. The FBI referred me to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms where I got nowhere. The National Association of Police Chiefs had no answer either. No guidance, no policy.

It used to be that police departments along America’s coastline, from California to New York and down to Florida, would dump these guns into watery graves far out into the ocean creating artificial reefs of rusting revolvers and rifles. Sometimes financially strapped departments kept the firearms for their SWAT Team’s use or traded them with neighboring law enforcement agencies. Other departments have been known to auction off confiscated guns or sell them to registered dealers for much needed cash. That, of course, puts the guns back on the street again.

So, more and more these days guns seized from those who aren’t supposed to have them, or those weapons turned in during ‘No Questions Asked’ neighborhood collection and buy-back drives, are being destroyed. They’re literally shredded in huge metal chomping machines called ‘alligators’ with a jaw power of 200 tons of cutting force. The weapons are pulverized into small pieces of scrap metal and sold for about 25 cents a pound.

Guns Loading Into Smelter

Guns Loading Into Smelter

There are other places these guns are sent to die. At foundries and smelters across America armed police guards are arriving with tens of thousands of pounds of confiscated weapons and they stand by to make sure they are completely destroyed. The guns are subjected to temperatures of more than 3000 degrees for as long as it takes to make them liquid again.

This death sentence for guns means life for more practical items. Some of the melted metal is used to make chain-link, pipes or manhole covers. In Southington, Connecticut there is just such a sewer cover (below) that declares in raised metal lettering that it was, “Made from 172 pounds of your confiscated guns.” Ironically, it’s placed right outside JoJo’s custom made gun shop and about 15 miles from the main Colt Fire Arms Manufacturing company in West Hartford, Connecticut. It’s a constant reminder to gun owners to keep their weapons safe and to stay out of trouble.

Made from 172#s of Melted Guns

Made from Melted Guns

In Rancho Cucamonga, California the TAMCO Steel foundry has been melting down guns for years. They call the program ‘Project Isaiah,’ named for the biblical passage about beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. One TAMCO official put the project’s goals into a modern version, “We shall melt their guns into rebar and build a community for all to live in peace and harmony.”

The rebar fashioned out of the 12 thousand guns TAMCO melted into uselessness last year helped build, among other structures, the Staples Center and the New York, New York Casino in Las Vegas. They also used it to repair the Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco and various earthquake damaged freeways.

A great swap, right? Lethal guns in exchange for products that produce jobs and safe places for citizens. But not everyone is happy with the gun destruction programs.

Gun enthusiasts complain police don’t really try to find the true owners of stolen guns before they condemn a weapon to the smelter. Others mourn the deliberate destruction of weapons that qualify as historically valuable antiques. Then there are the pragmatic who point to the latest FBI stats and grimly remind us that no matter how many guns are destroyed in this fashion the American people buy an estimated five million new guns every year.

The destruction programs are a literal drop in the smelter bucket.

Me? I acknowledge the U.S. Constitution gives citizens the right to bear arms – law abiding citizens – and that’s fine. But, these are guns taken from outlaws. And outlaws use guns to commit nearly 70% of all the murders in this country. I’ve got no problem drowning, grinding or melting them into oblivion.

HOME

Join Our Email List!
Diane keeps you up to the minute with weekly news and events.

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

DianeDimond June 15, 2009 at 5:47 pm

ABQ Journal Reader David D. writes:

"I don't recall reading one of your editorials before. I found it well written but containing a number of misrepresentations. I don't know if this was intentional or not. The phrase " a cache of illegal weapons from semi-automatics to half a dozen .357 Magnums" is factually incorrect in 99% of the United States. Virtually no semiautomatic is illegal. A 357 Magnum is a revolver which in and of itself is not illegal anywhere. The phrase "two unlicensed pistols inside a home" implies this is illegal. With the exception of a handful off local jurisdictions in some northeast states firearms licensing does not exist in this country.

On a different matter I do take issue that is ok, or worse,even desirable, for the police (and presumably any government agency) to come across stolen property and simply destroy it without making an attempt to return it to the legal owner. Guns, like TVs, bicycles, and tools are private personal property. I am safe in saying that 99% of all Americans would be enraged if their property was simply destroyed without due process."

Reply

DianeDimond June 15, 2009 at 5:55 pm

David:
Having only 800 words in each column I sometimes have to figure the reader knows certain facts as there isn't always room to explain fully.
If, as I stated in the column "A local drug dealing operation" is taken down and there is a cache of weapons found – they are automatically deemed "illegal" as they're assumed to have been used in the commission of drug crimes.
HAVING A GUN IN AMERICA ISN'T ILLEGAL unless you're using it for criminal reasons, unless you possess it without registering it, if you use it in an unsafe manner such as giving it to a child to use. Thus, my phrase "two unlicensed pistols (found) inside a home." If they aren't licensed (read that registered with the state) they are, in fact, illegally held.
I'm unaware of any state that doesn't require you register your gun. If I'm wrong, please, set me straight.
~ DD

Reply

cindy June 17, 2009 at 6:30 pm

I think you are wrong. I live in Florida and we are not required to register our guns. You must have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, otherwise, the state sets no restrictions for gun ownership.
Only states with gestapo democrat control have these oppressive laws. If you check, you will note a direct correlation of "gun control laws" and crime rate. It is none of the government's business whether I own a gun, or how many guns I own, unless I am a felon.

Reply

sharigreer June 17, 2009 at 6:56 pm

I love knowing these killing units are being destroyed and used for things like
man hole covers! Too many guns go to people who will harm others with them.
So, grind 'em, melt 'em… get 'er done!!

Reply

TBJ June 18, 2009 at 3:44 pm

Very few states require you to register your guns. California is one of the worst places to be for firearms enthusiasts and even here only handguns are registered – and it isn't actually illegal to have an unregistered one here, for example, if you acquired it before registration started or are given it by a parent or grandparent.

Destroying these guns is illogical. Do we insist on destroying getaway cars, or cars driven by drunk drivers? How about LIzzie Borden't ax? Selling them to licensed dealers (FFL's) no more puts them "back on the street" than does the sale of new firearms straight from the manufacturer. Turning thousands of dollars into a manhole cover is plain stupid.

Reply

janet4716 June 15, 2009 at 9:17 pm

I, too, believe that they should be melted down. There has to be a way to get back some stolen property before it is destroyed. Alot of guns aren't reported stolen because they were stolen or bought illegally in the first place.

Reply

jeff liddell June 16, 2009 at 2:58 am

I truly believe that most gun owning Americans are law abiding citizens, even those that own questionable styles such as assault rifles. If this were not true, there would be no room in the headlines for any stories other than gun violence. I have owned guns my entire adult life and had access to them through dad and uncles from an early age. I was taught safety first. However I must again allude to the ever present black market that is available to those who cannot obtain a gun legally. For every gun that is destroyed, one will surface to take its place. To the topic of your column, the resale of confiscated guns only returns them to gun dealers and possible return to the hands of criminals, so meltdown does seem to be a proper disposition.

Reply

Cliff June 17, 2009 at 2:10 am

Dear Diane,

Most states do NOT require a license to possess a handgun. Please see below:

Compendium of State Firearms Laws
http://www.nraila.org/GunLaws/Federal/Read.aspx?i

Thank you.

With Liberty and Free $peech?,
Cliff

Reply

DianeDimond June 17, 2009 at 7:08 pm

I'm sorry, readers – I think I'm equating have a PERMIT to carry a gun with a LICENSE to carry a gun. Sorry for any confusion. And thanks, Cliff, for the link to the state firearms laws.
Appreciate it! ~ DD

Reply

TBJ June 18, 2009 at 4:12 pm

I think you are still confused, as the real difference is between "permit (or license) to buy" and "permit (or license) to carry," but this is a confusing subject. In a couple of states you need a permit to buy a gun and keep it in your home. In a couple of states, the gun you buy (whether you needed a permit or not) is registered to you. In a couple of states, although you can keep a gun at home, you cannot carry it around with you, concealed or not.____In two states (Vermont and Alaska) you can carry a firearm openly or concealed without a permit. In most of the other states you can carry concealed with a permit (not sure how many states allow unconcealed carry, but it is substantial).____In 40 of the states, getting a permit to carry a concealed permit is relatively easy if you are a law-abiding citizen. If you qualify, you must be granted a permit. These are known as "Shall Issue" states. In a handful more, getting a permit depends on the discretion of the local sheriff – which is often open to abuse, such that only rich people or celebrities are issued (see Los Angeles).

Reply

DianeDimond June 18, 2009 at 8:06 pm

Wow. My little column was really just about what happened to confiscated guns – … glad to have all this extra info! ~ DD

Reply

Rob June 18, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Your mistake is not with the terminology – permit or license. Both terms are used by different states. But you are confusing a license to carry with gun registration. A license (or permit) to carry is a license to carry a weapon on your person, usually concealed, in public for the purposes of self-defense. This has nothing at all to do with registering a gun, any more than having a driver's license has anything to do with registering a car.

Further, most states do NOT require that you register your guns. Some do, but most don't. And at the federal level, there is actually a law that prohibits the federal government from doing so, because such programs have been shown to have no useful law-enforcement purpose, and have a history of abuse. So having an unregistered gun is perfectly legal in the US, unless you are in one of the small minority of states that require it.

Reply

David Montgoomery June 17, 2009 at 7:42 pm

Diane, years ago most department confiscated weapons stayed in the department for service use, if the weapon was approved by the chief or sold to replace old weapons. Today most agencies department policy requires the weapons to be destroyed, which are no longer considered to be evidence.

David Montgomery

Reply

Don Kilmer June 17, 2009 at 9:11 pm

The problem with your essay — its OK to destroy guns, because at best they are a necessary evil — is that the premise is irrational. To ascribe human moral character traits to inanimate objects is a form of mysticism known as animism. It is similar to judging a man's worth by the color of his skin. (i.e., no rational basis for the conclusion)

Firearms represent a value-added object of commerce. Many man-hours were spent forging, machining, and finishing a firearm. Melting it back to a steel girder represents a destruction of that work. The better practice for cash strapped local governments would be to auction the guns on e-bay to the highest bidder. Proceeds would go to victims and/or replenish the public treasury. In the alternative, they could be handed out (with training and appropriate ammunition) to women who have been victims of domestic violence.

Reply

DianeDimond June 17, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Don,
Thanks for writing but I completely dispute your conclusion that MY CONCLUSION was that guns are a necessary evil.
I clearly state in the column that I respect and recognize the U.S. Constitution that gives us the right to bear arms….Us, meaning law abiding citizens. Once you've used a gun for a criminal reason you've proven you can't be trusted and all bets are off. ~ DD

Reply

Don Kilmer June 17, 2009 at 11:04 pm

I disputed your premise, which I think leads to a faulty conclusion, that we are doing a good thing by melting down, sinking or otherwise destroying guns. The guns aren't guilty of anything. We are destroying valuable objects when we destroy guns. And we perpetuate an anamystic myth when we then celebrate turning them into man-hole covers as some kind of triumph over evil. The metal was already more valuable as a gun! Why spend the time, money and effort to turn it into a man-hole cover? Symbolism? What kind of symbolism?

Yes, take guns away from convicted violent criminals. Sell them to the highest bidder and pay restitution to the victim of the crime.

Reply

Don Kilmer June 17, 2009 at 11:05 pm

Let me put this another way. Suppose $50,000 in gold bullion was used by a con man to set up a scam and swindle investors out of money. Maybe he shows them the gold to prove his liquidity. So the gold itself is used to commit a crime, not unlike a common armed robber would use a gun. After the con man is put in jail, do you know of anyone who would suggest taking the $50k in gold and sinking it to the bottom of the ocean because it was an instrumentality of a crime? What about melting it down to make girders? Man-hole covers? NO. The gold would be used to compensate victims or it would be turned over to the public treasury.

Tell me the difference between the gold and the gun metal.

Reply

DianeDimond June 18, 2009 at 1:44 am

Don, Don, Don
No one would ever equate the harm of using gold in the commission of a crime with the harm done when a gun is used in a crime. Now look, I'm a supporter of gun rights – you seem to think I'm not. But guns are not mythical, magical things. They are crafted pieces of metal – which by the way, are used in 70% of the nation's murders every year) So what if they're melted down to make Manhole covers or girders for buildings? The few hundreds of thousands of guns melted down each year are easily and overwhelmingly replaced with MILLIONS of new guns manufactured annually. One more point most law enforcement agencies respect the craftsmanship of custom gun making and antique guns and THOSE special pieces are sifted out and placed with bona fide museums. (And for the record, no where did I write that we should "celebrate" good over evil when we melt them down as you suggested. You made that up.) DD

Reply

Don Kilmer June 18, 2009 at 3:54 am

Your quotes: "

"This death sentence for guns means life for more practical items."

"The destruction programs are a literal drop in the smelter bucket."

"I acknowledge the U.S. Constitution gives citizens the right to bear arms – law abiding citizens – and that’s fine. But, these are guns taken from outlaws. And outlaws use guns to commit nearly 70% of all the murders in this country. I’ve got no problem drowning, grinding or melting them into oblivion."

Don Kilmer June 18, 2009 at 4:08 am

The clear connotation from those quotes is that the metal from the former guns, is more practical as a man-hole cover, or a girder for casino, and that once removed from an outlaw, you have no problem with "drowning, grinding or melting them into oblivion."

Most murders are commited with some kind of weapon or improvised weapon. Going back to my gold example — are you saying that if someone is murdered by being hit in the head with a gold bar, that the gold bar should drowned, ground down or melted into oblivion?

It is a silly notion. The metal in the shape of a gun, is already in a useful form. The only reason to recycle the metal is if the gun is defective, obsolete or there is no market for that model.

Don Kilmer June 18, 2009 at 4:08 am

I respect your acknowledgment of the 2nd Amendment. But you are still attaching normative labels to a hunk of metal. You have to concede that it costs more more to transport and melt guns under project Isaiah, that it would to auction them or sell them wholesale to a firearm dealer.

The value captured in selling the gun as a gun instead of scrap metal should be obvious.

I (of all people, if you have done your homework on me) concede that guns have value as symbols, just not in the way you proposed in your article.

Rob June 18, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Diane,

I agree wholeheartedly with your statement, "Once you've used a gun for a criminal reason you've proven YOU can't be trusted and all bets are off." (emphasis added) But that refers to the person who committed the crime, not the inanimate object he/she used to commit it. Your assertion that somehow this justifies destroying the gun implies that the object should be punished as well.

Yes, guns are used in a large percentage of violent crimes, including murders, in the US. But, as you point out in your article, destroying them doesn't change that it in any way, since more than enough new ones are manufactured and purchased to make up for those destroyed. So, what IS the point, if not symbolism that the guns are somehow, in and of themselves, bad?

And what about stolen property, sometimes extremely monetarily, historically and/or sentimentally valuable, that is destroyed rather than being returned to the rightful owner? Are you suggesting that a museum piece, such as George Washington's favorite flintlock pistol was stolen, it should then be melted into a manhole cover rather than returned? Some people's private collections are similarly valuable. Or how about the thousands of guns collected in "buy-back" programs you mentioned? These were not even used to commit crimes in the first place, for the most part. And yet you seem to be saying that it is a similarly good thing that they are also destroyed. Again, to what end other than anti-gun symbolism?

Further, you state, "Other departments have been known to auction off confiscated guns or sell them to registered dealers for much needed cash. That, of course, puts the guns back on the street again." This implies that legally sold and owned guns, possessed by law-abiding citizens, by being "back on the street", are somehow a bad thing.

While I know you've written that you are a supporter of the 2nd Amendment right to Keep and Bear Arms, your tone in the article is difficult to see as anything but anti-gun.

Reply

Jeff Liddell June 17, 2009 at 11:27 pm

In response to Don Kilmer's post, Diane's column was not about people, it was about the destruction of those inanimate objects as you refer to the guns that are being destroyed. Guns are not the evil, just the tools of many evil people. Both people and guns that are used for criminal purposes should be disposed of by the necessary and proper legal avenues available to the authorities. The destruction of these guns will not make a dent in the manufacture of firearms, if anything, it should increase production. What would you have the authorities do, have a garage sale, firearms cannot be disposed of in the same manner as other things confiscated in an arrest, such as real estate, cars and jewelry. The firearms discussed in this column were used to commit a crime and they deserve some type of grave yard destination. The melting and reuse of the metal is much better and more environmentally sound than dumping them to the bottom of a watery graveyard to rust away. We certainly do not need for law enforcement agencies to start ebay stores or arm private citizens, those are absurd ideas.

Reply

Don Kilmer June 18, 2009 at 4:12 am

I am familiar with the procedures for selling guns. I am in the business. I agree with you that bad people should be "disposed of" if you mean put in jail. I do not agree that valuable objects that are used to commit crimes should be destroyed without a cost/benefit analysis of whether it makes economic sense to simply sell the guns wholesale to a licensed firearms dealer and give the proceeds to the victim of the crime.

Reply

Jeff June 18, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Yes taking an object that took resources from the environment to make and melting it down saves precious resources, hence saving the environment.

Reply

Rob June 18, 2009 at 9:31 pm

Making the gun and remelting it also take energy, in the form of fossil fuels. Quite a bit in fact. Those resources are far more stressed than our sources of iron, so melting them down is actually far more detrimental to the environment than simply mining a bit more iron.

Reply

Rob June 18, 2009 at 5:01 pm

If they are simply inanimate objects (which they are) and are, by your own admission, not evil, then by what logic do they "deserve" anything, destruction or otherwise? To "deserve" something means a reward or punishment for an intentional or reckless act. So you're saying the guns should be punished? How is this not animistic symbolism?

Many departments have sold the guns back to the public rather than destroy them. What's the problem with that, unless you believe the guns themselves, or private possession of guns in general, is an "evil" thing? The guns used in crimes are no more likely to be used in crimes again than a newly purchased gun would be.

There is no recidivism rate for "criminal guns". They're just hunks of metal. But your statements (and Diane's) imply that they are somehow imbued with some evil intelligence, life force or criminal talismanic power, and that destroying them somehow reduces the crime or "evil" in the world, and is somehow "deserved" by the gun.

Reply

TBJ June 18, 2009 at 4:06 pm

I totally agree with Don. Destroying these guns is as illogical as destroying a car used by a drunk driver.

However, I don't think Don made it clear that he is not, I hope, proposing to sell these guns to John Doe straight of the street without questions. I am assuming that, Ebay or not, Don is proposing to sell these guns with exactly the same restrictions and background checks that a new gun sale would be restricted to, either to or through a registered gun dealer.

Reply

TBJ June 18, 2009 at 4:12 pm

There are also a couple of "Won't issue" states, and these are the ones with the highest crime rates. Criminals don't obey the law and just love the fact that their victims must be disarmed. Vermont and Alaska, mentioned earlier, are, of course, both have very low crime rates.

Reply

TBJ June 18, 2009 at 4:51 pm

"The melting and reuse of the metal is much better and more environmentally sound than dumping them to the bottom of a watery graveyard to rust away."

How is turning maybe $1000 worth of manufactured product into 50 cents worth of scrap environmentally sound?

Reply

Chris June 18, 2009 at 5:37 pm

So then I would assume Diane is admitting defeat at the hands of Don Kilmer and making an admission that she has no substantive argument and that her article is hogwash? I can't argue my own position so I simply give up? GREAT investigative reporting Diane.

Reply

DianeDimond June 18, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Toss barbs if that's what makes you feel important, Chris. My column was merely informative in nature …. Gee, what happens to all those guns that police confiscate? And I answered my own question. I thought people might be interested.
And, its an Op-Ed column, Chris. Its not an investigative piece. I know the difference as I've done both for years. ~ DD

Reply

seth June 18, 2009 at 5:54 pm

A gun is NOT a person, though. While a criminal might have the capacity to keep on robbing, beating, or killing, a gun has NO such capacity. A gun is only as bad as the person who wields it. So why should police agencies, who are strapped for funds, take precious man hours to smelt something down to make a measly 25 cents per pound, when they could have sold it for a few hundred dollars per pound if left in tact?

Meanwhile, both of you admit that doing this does NOTHING, a "drop in the bucket" you'd say. I suspect Don here has made an accurate judgment about you placing some human character into these inanimate objects. I would think such… strong supporters of the 2nd amendment would see some value into police agencies obtaining more capital, by selling these firearms to legal dealers.

Is it possible that one of these guns could be found in the hands of a criminal once again? Of course. Is it possible that destroying these guns will stop the same criminal from obtaining another "crime free" gun? Not in the slightest.

Reply

Alex Vinogradoff June 18, 2009 at 8:10 pm

And if a stolen car was used for hit&run, we should melt it too ?

Reply

SB Pete June 19, 2009 at 9:28 am

The symbolic destruction of firearms used in crimes (for that is all it is – a modern equivalent of burning criminals in effigy) serves no useful purpose whatsoever. However the practice does serve to reinforce a public perception that tools used in the commission of criminal acts bear some responsibility for those acts. Whether an increased availability of firearms can be correlated to some increase in the willingness of certain persons to commit crimes that they might not otherwise have committed had they access only to other tools, I don't know. Despite a plethora of studies into the question, the answer is still largely unknowable. On the other hand, I can say with a great deal of certainty that many victims would not be so had they firearms and training in their use. There is a reason the handgun is known as the great equalizer.______
That all said, confiscated firearms (& those collected in "Gun Buybacks" and other such schemes) should be dealt with in a rational fashion. Assuming they are no longer needed as evidence, first, check to see if they have been reported stolen. If so, return them to their lawful owner. If not, ask whether or not the crime they were involved in was of enough importance to be placed in a museum (Yes I'm serious. Laugh all you want, but Bonnie & Clyde's guns for example are prized exhibits in more than a few museum collections) Next, check to see if the firearm functions safely. Next sell it at Police auction or deposit it in the department armory. Making manhole covers out of goods with as much value added as firearms is about as mind-numbingly stupid as tying up women to see if they float, then burning them as witches if they do. This is not about turning swords into farm implements – that old saw with the ploughshares was about conscript armies going back to peace time life. Guns used in base criminal acts have nowhere near the symbolic import, and we shouldn't ascribe them any such honor. No, crushing a criminal's gun is a lot closer in concept to when your father pulled a dollar out of his wallet and threw it in the trashcan to prove a point when you were a young child. The only difference is we're using the garbage disposal… and a lot more dollars.

Reply

DianeDimond June 19, 2009 at 1:03 pm

SB Pete: thanks for this well thought out mini-essay. I so appreciate thoughtful, measured, CALM responses – from all sides. You'd be amazed at the knee-jerk vitriol I attracted with this column. I meant it as informational ( What DOES happen to all those guns….?) not as an anti-gun piece. Thanks again for taking the time to write. And BTW – I learned over and over in researching this story that antique guns are specifically plucked out and sent to safekeeping, specifically like the Bonnie and Clyde guns you mentioned above. ~ DD

Reply

Don Kilmer June 19, 2009 at 2:46 pm

I went back and reviewed my posts. I hope you are not lumping me in with those you accuse of knee-jerk vitriol. SB Pete is making the same points I was making. I am happy if you found him more persuasive than I.

You may have meant the piece as informational, but you made comments that were editorial, especially your last sentence.

Incidentially, the antique guns that are "plucked out and sent to safekeeping" are still guns. Depending on jurisidication, the police may be in violation of the law if they are cherry picking guns and keeping them without following state and federal regulations. For most firearms, especially when they change ownership, the transaction must be logged by a licensed firearms dealer.

Thank you for giving me the space to comment on your article.

Reply

DianeDimond June 20, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Don, I was referring to several comments I got that I have NOT posted. I don't mind if people don't agree with what I've written. I'm appreciative when they point out errors. Anything to get people talking and thinking is great by me. But when readers take what I've written and spin and twirl it so as to attack something I haven't even said … well, that's the rare occasion when I don't post those particular comments. ~ DD

Reply

Rob June 21, 2009 at 1:45 am

Diane,

I appreciate that you did not intend to write an anti-gun article. I fully understand that you see this as merely informative about the fate of guns that are collected by law enforcement.

However, allow me to point out why this article is perceived as anti-gun (My questions are rhetorical. They are not meant to be challenges, but to illustrate the way in which your comments are taken by those who see your article as anti-gun):

1. As several people here have noted, your support for destroying guns used in crimes, characterizing their recycling as preferable to the metal remaining in the form of a gun, only makes sense if we accept that guns, in and of themselves, are bad. The gun did not commit the crime, and carries no residual criminal character. If it goes on to serve a useful purpose in a police arsenal, or as a privately owned gun for self-defense or sport, we've reduced the need to expend additional natural resources (including energy) in making a new gun to fulfill that role.

2. While you mention that guns are often used in murders, you don't mention that the vast majority of "criminal" guns confiscated by police are NOT used in murders. In fact, most of them are not used to further ANY violent crime. They are simply possessed by people who either are not allowed to own them, or who happen to possess them while committing a non-gun related crime. In fact, all three of the examples of confiscated guns you give at the start of your article fall into this class. So it seems you are emphasizing the worst abuse of a gun, as if it were typical of all the guns about which you are writing, when, in fact, it is highly atypical.

3. Along with these "criminal" guns, you include both stolen guns and guns voluntarily turned in by law-abiding citizens in buy-back programs. These guns have no criminal connection at all, and yet you imply that by destroying them, police departments make us safer. Unless you take the anti-gun position that even guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens, exercising their constitutional rights, are a threat to our safety, this doesn't make sense.

4. You use phrases that imply guns are intrinsically bad. In your opening sentence you use the phrase "dangerous guns". Now, you might mean guns used in crimes, but your story isn't confined to those guns, so it may (and I'll admit, possibly wrongly) sound like you see all guns as "dangerous" in some pejorative meaning of the word. Later you say, "A great swap, right? Lethal guns in exchange for products that produce jobs and safe places for citizens." Again using "lethal" in what could seem a pejorative manner, and saying that turning them into sewer covers is "great". These are just two examples.

5. Right after that, you mention that some people are upset about stolen guns and historically valuable guns being destroyed, instead of being returned to their rightful owners (they are, after all, valuable private property) or preserved in museum collections. You also use another turn of phrase at that point, that implies guns are bad, even if legally owned and used, "…grimly remind us that no matter how many guns are destroyed in this fashion the American people buy an estimated five million new guns every year". Given that the vast majority of these new guns are legally purchased by law-abiding citizens, why is this information "grim", unless this is meant as a statement against guns in general?

You don't then seem sympathetic to the concerns of these people, and instead say, "But, these are guns taken from outlaws. And outlaws use guns to commit nearly 70% of all the murders in this country. I’ve got no problem drowning, grinding or melting them into oblivion." So you again state the "70% of all murders" phrase, focusing again this uncharacteristic use of guns in general, and again displace the act of the criminal onto the gun. How does the fact that a criminal stealing property devalue the property itself, either to its rightful owner or to the interests of history?

So, while you may not see your piece as anti-gun, and I will accept that you did not intend it as such, it is filled with both ideas and phrases that strongly imply an anti-gun message, even if unconsciously and unintentionally. At the very least, I would guess (and I'm only voicing a guess, I'm not saying it's accurate) that you are a little uncomfortable around guns, or may not have any actual experience with them. As you've found out, people are VERY sensitive about this topic, and it's easy to offend someone unintentionally if you're not well-versed in the topic.

Reply

DianeDimond June 21, 2009 at 4:26 am

Never let it be said that I don't give ALL sides a forum to vent. But, Rob, you are dead wrong about me not having any actual experience with guns or being uncomfortable around them.
I grew up in New Mexico. I was shooting guns while I was still in elementary school with the kind and vigilant attention of my Uncle Jim Stephens who would take a group of us cousins out to the mesa to shoot cans off fence posts. I own a Taser gun, I used to shoot at a range in California with a friend of mine who had 9 mm and a 357 magnum that nearly knocked me off my feet the first time I shot it.
Let's just all agree to disagree about my conclusion that if cops confiscate a gun and its later destroyed I'm okay with that.javascript:void(0);

Reply

Jeff Liddell June 19, 2009 at 5:44 pm

Each week I look forward to Diane's columns, and hope she has written on a subject that will cause me to react and issue a reply, which she usually does. In my replies I try to offer my opinion of the subject and perhaps what others have said, I always try to avoid putting words into the thoughts of other writers, reading between the lines is never a good way to respond because you attribute words that are not written. I never imply that I know what others are thinking. Albert Einstein said that if the facts do not fit your theory, then change the facts, many of the replies this week have done just that, trying to change the wording that was written to fit their opinions.

Reply

Lyn June 21, 2009 at 3:35 am

So..am I right in presuming that all negative comments here tend to be from gun owners??? Makes me wonder..there is a large range of responses here.

Reply

DianeDimond June 21, 2009 at 4:21 am

Facebook Friend Max C. writes:

" There's nothing "irrational" about getting rid of the over-supply of guns. Especially semi-automatic weapons, of the kind that only the military and *some* law enforcement have any business operating. The production of weapons needs to be an enterprise tightly regulated by the government, with sales to private citizens well-regulated ONLY to those who undergo rigorous background checks,and rigorous training. And I'm sorry for people who are so closed-minded as to be unable to see the simple logic of something like that."

Reply

Rob June 21, 2009 at 7:16 pm

Max C., you need to do a little study of the history of the Second Amendment, and the specific reasons the Founding Fathers included it in the Constitution. The whole point is that the populace is supposed to be armed with state-of-the-art firearms specifically to be able to resist the military and the police, if they should ever be used to suppress our rights, and to make the military and police superfluous, so that the government would have less reason to form them in the first place (standing armies and "select militias", like the police and the National Guard, were seen by them as the single greatest threat to a free society).

Until after the Civil War, when the government needed to appease white supremacists in the South by allowing them to disarm African Americans, all gun control laws affecting citizens were considered unconstitutional. Congress passed several federal laws at the time to further protect the right of every individual to be armed with military weapons (sold to them by the army), even overturning a number of presidential vetoes (Andrew Johnson was a pro-South president who tried to protect white supremacy). Unfortunately, in the case that is now the only legal basis for gun control, the Supreme Court ruled that anyone except the federal government could violate your constitutional rights, in order to set free a group of white supremacists who had disarmed, and then murdered, about 70 African Americans. That allowed the southern states to pass their Black Laws, which included the precursors of virtually every existing gun-control law today, laws that were passed specifically to allow the disarming of blacks and their white supporters, so that they could then be robbed, raped, and murdered more easily.

If you have doubts about the truth of these claims, read a book on the subject. I suggest starting with what is widely regarded as one of the best studies of the Bill of Rights and how our modern view of it is strongly influenced by the Reconstruction period. It's called "The Bill of Rights", by Akhil Reed Amar. He's an anti-gun liberal law professor at Yale. But despite his personal political leanings, his academic integrity led him to exactly the conclusions I just described (to his personal discomfort). Then try "The Day Freedom Died", by Charles Lane. It's about the court decision I spoke of, and the fact that it set back civil rights in this country so badly, that it took almost the entire 20th Century just to win back the approximately 2/3 of the Bill of Rights which have been recovered so far. The court cases that were necessary to regain the First Amendment alone stretched from 1925 – 1963. Then go look up any federal court case involving gun rights, and notice that every one refers back to this case as its source of legal authority.

Even today, modern gun-control laws are racially biased. Laws against "Saturday Night Specials" are specifically aimed (no pun intended) at disarming African Americans in poor urban areas. Look up the term itself. It's a shortened version of a racial slur against blacks, who could mostly only afford small, cheap guns for self-defense. The NFA (the law that restricts machine guns), the Gun Control Act of 1968 (passed to disarm militant Black groups such as the Black Panthers), and the Assault Weapons Ban didn't make any guns illegal (it is perfectly legal to own machine guns, and it was still legal to own "assault weapons" during the "ban"), but these laws made them expensive, so that people of modest means, especially minorities, couldn't afford them. However wealthy whites could and can still get them (a typical machine gun costs around $8,000 – $10,000 – though their actual value is only about $300 – $500 – plus a $200 tax, and can be had on-line or through any number of gun shops).

Now, we can debate the effectiveness, or even the moral correctness, of the original intent of the Second Amendment. But until it is repealed, it protects what the Founding Fathers understood, and many modern Americans still understand, to be a fundamental human right, that they wanted, above almost all other rights, to protect – the right of every citizen to be adequately armed to perform any necessary military, police, or self-defense duty. The only reason it seems so scary today is that this country worked so hard and for so long to disarm minorities, so that they could more easily be repressed, that we've succeeded in creating a fractured society in which the free exercise of our constitutional rights is intimidating to contemplate.

As the unanimous decision in the recent 9th Circuit court said about the Second Amendment, "we do not measure the protection the Constitution affords a right by the values of our own times. If contemporary desuetude sufficed to read rights out of the Constitution, then there would be little benefit to a written statement of them. Some may disagree with the decision of the Founders to enshrine a given right in the Constitution. If so, then the people can amend the document. But such amendments are not for the courts to ordain." In other words, amend it or live with it.

Reply

DianeDimond June 22, 2009 at 2:00 pm

READERS: – Rob, in particular – Its difficult to post such LONG comments. I've done it here because I'm getting so many responses to my column. But, please know that in the future I will have to either edit them for space reasons or not approve them at all.

Reply

Lyn June 21, 2009 at 2:29 pm

I completely agree with you Max C. Very good point.

Reply

WaltGad June 28, 2009 at 7:15 am

Max:Max:
The intention of the Founding Fathers, by keeping the citizenry well armed, was so that they would be prepared, in the event that a self-serving and dictatorial Central Government would begin to trample the constitution and try to force it's will on the people instead of faithfully DOING the will of the people, they would be prepared to remove that government by force, and replace it with elected people who WOULD respect the constitution and the will of the people. How would you propose that they do that? With a bunch of kitchen knives, maybe?

Another old saw; one from the Founding Fathers:
"When the people fear their government, there is oppression. When the government fears the people, there is liberty."

Really now, why else would the Big Government Left be so intent on disarming the law abiding citizenry? Must make the world safe for the agenda of the leftist power grabbing progressives, right?

Reply

DianeDimond June 18, 2009 at 6:05 am

Nope, not saying that about the gold bar at all.

Reply

DianeDimond June 18, 2009 at 6:07 am

I've done no homework on you. I think this is probably enough on this topic. I get your position loud and clear. ~DD

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: