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How Hennepin County keeps guns connected with crimes off the street

Hennepin County has confiscated hundreds of weapons used in crimes, how they are getting them off th
Hennepin County has confiscated hundreds of weapons used in crimes, how they are getting them off th 02:57

MINNEAPOLIS — For Minnesota law enforcement, getting guns off the streets and out of the hands of criminals is a big goal. 

Each year, investigators with the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office confiscate hundreds of weapons used in crimes. So far this year, that number is 106. The guns have been tied to robbery and drug cases, or taken from a felon in possession of a firearm.

The last two years, they seized more than one weapon a day. Those guns are held as evidence until the cases move through court, then they're melted down. 

Cpt. Steve Labatt, the forensic laboratory director, rattled off guns on the list of destroyed inventory.

"Pistols, revolvers, Derringers, semi-automatics, rifles, Thompson rifle, more pistols, more Derringers," said Labatt. "As those items of evidence go through the court process, and the person is found guilty, and the court rules that guns are seized and don't get to go back to the owners or the person, they come here to our lab for destruction."

This round included more than 470 guns, mostly attached to crimes. Some were unwanted and turned in by families. In all, it totaled 660 pounds.  


"You don't want them back on the street. And we are beyond our capacity for storing evidence in our crime lab," Labatt said, when asked why the department destroys guns connected to crimes.

It took Labatt's team about 10 days to remove the plastic and wood from the weapons before they are melted down.

"The foundry employees, under our watchful eyes, opened the boxes and would hand load the guns into the foundry. We started with handguns first, and then we put in the long guns, the shotguns in, some rifles. And then at that point, once a temperature got rolling pretty hot it was, we've just keep filling it up and filling it up," Labatt said.

The result? Several heavy blocks with a message embossed on the top: "Each block represents approximately 50 guns off the streets of Hennepin County."

"It's a great representation of the work that's been done," Labatt said.

The sheriff's office made sure its task forces got a block to commemorate their hard work. 

WCCO asked about guns used in murders and was told those are kept for life per state statute.

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