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Police evidence rooms in Texas face challenges with disposing seized firearms

Police evidence rooms in Texas face challenges with disposing seized firearms
Police evidence rooms in Texas face challenges with disposing seized firearms 04:09

FORT WORTH — Police evidence rooms across Texas often find themselves grappling with an influx of seized and surrendered firearms. As these weapons accumulate, law enforcement departments must find safe and efficient methods to dispose of them.

Some departments opt to melt the firearms down, while others choose to crush them. However, there are instances where firearms, or at least parts of them, escape destruction altogether.

In February, Tarrant County Commissioners granted permission to the Sheriff's Office to sell 21 forfeited guns to licensed gun dealers. This move netted the Sheriff's Office more than $46,000 but also the ire of some residents.

Former Democratic state representative Lon Burnam criticized the county officials during the February meeting, stating, "Talk about immoral behavior from your county government—selling weapons and putting them back on the street when we have the massive problems that we have. This is just lunacy."

In response to the criticism, Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn drew a comparison between the sale of forfeited firearms and selling a car. In a statement, he said, "I would not prophesize that someone buying a new car will get drunk, drive on the highway, and kill another person. It is anti-American to assume that legal gun owners will violate the law in some future hypothetical situation."

Even when seized weapons are not directly sold, parts of guns can still find their way back onto the streets. A CBS News Texas I-Team Investigation discovered that since 2019, more than a dozen North Texas police and sheriff departments have provided thousands of seized and surrendered firearms to a company called Gulf Coast GunBusters.

This Louisiana-based company offers law enforcement a convenient and free method for firearm disposal. Using its "Firearm Pulverizer," Gulf Coast GunBusters crushes guns into pieces. However, rather than destroying firearms entirely, the company strips off salvageable parts and repackages them as gun kits for sale through an online gun broker. In many cases, the only part destroyed is the gun receiver—the part legally considered the actual gun. 

When the I-Team informed Dallas County about GunBusters' process, which the company lays out in its contracts, County Judge Clay Jenkins took decisive action. He directed the Sheriff's Office to cease sending guns to GunBusters. 

"If we're saying we want to get dangerous guns off the street, then if someone comes up with a loophole to build ghost guns out of destroyed guns, then we're going to close that loophole," Jenkins said.

Gulf Coast GunBusters declined to comment to the I-Team.

While some local law enforcement agencies have also stopped sending firearms to GunBusters upon learning about the parts resale, at least five North Texas police departments continue to utilize GunBusters. These departments told the I-Team the GunBusters service saves taxpayers dollars.

Finding safe and efficient ways to dispose of guns can be a challenge for local police departments. Dallas County is currently negotiating a new agreement with GunBusters to ensure that their guns are completely destroyed, down to every last part. However, this comprehensive service comes at a price—approximately $70 per firearm destroyed.

For Dallas County and police chiefs like Chief Brook Rollins in Lewisville, ensuring that no part of a seized firearm ends up back on the street justifies the expense. 

"It's a big deal when you take possession of somebody's firearm," Rollins stated. "It needs to be disposed of properly, even if it costs money because that's the responsible thing for us to do."

However, other North Texas police departments argue that the cost to taxpayers for destroying guns in their entirety may not be warranted.

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