26 January 2023
(WGHP) — There are thousands of guns in the custody of law enforcement agencies across the Triad collecting dust.
Around 8,200 guns are in Winston-Salem police custody, 1,637 in High point and around 764 in Randolph County and 460 in Rockingham.
A 2013 North Carolina general statute states if an officer can’t find the original owner of any seized firearm, they have two options: they destroy firearms with damage or modifications or they sell firearms without damage with a proper serial number back to the public.
“Right now, we’re choosing to keep them,” said Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines. Joines wants a third option from lawmakers.
“It hits you right in the face when you see the magnitude of the weapons that are up there and knowing each one of those was utilized by someone desiring to do harm,” Mayor Joines said.
Holding on to firearms creates a space crunch in evidence storage. In Winston-Salem, the police department’s evidence storage area is almost full.
The Guilford County Sheriff’s Office is choosing to sell guns with verified serial numbers to the community.
“It’s just like you were buying any other gun because you have to buy it through a federally licensed dealer, so it’s no different from you buying a brand new gun,” Lieutenant Jonathan Hasty said.
Alamance County sold 135 firearms between July and December of 2022 and made almost $8,000.
FOX8 asked Attorney General Josh Stein’s thoughts on the subject. He responded with this statement:
“Chiefs of police have told me that they are concerned about the proliferation of guns and gun crimes in their communities. Currently, state law hamstrings them when they obtain guns in the course of criminal investigation. They want the flexibility to destroy some of those guns rather than having them accumulate or having to sell them back into their communities. North Carolina law prohibits them from exercising that discretion. That law is turning police departments into weapons warehouses. I support taking the handcuffs off law enforcement so they can safely dispose of guns that they’ve acquired by investigating crimes. I hope the General Assembly acts on this public safety matter and law enforcement’s concerns during the upcoming legislative session.”
–AG Josh Stein