A quiet, unanimous vote by City Council on Tuesday authorized the Statesboro Police Department to sell 40 seized or forfeited guns to a federally licensed dealer who gave the highest of three bids.
The Police Department became owner of each of the guns through court orders, Police Chief Mike Broadhead stated in a memo to City Manager Charles Penny. Some had been held in evidence but were never reclaimed and were no longer needed for prosecution. One is a long gun, a Mossberg .22-caliber rifle, but the other 39 are handguns, in other words pistols and revolvers.
In the winning bid, GT Distributors of Georgia, based in Rossville, agreed to prices ranging from $5 each for three handguns – including a Rohm RG-14, the same model of cheap .22-caliber revolver Wikipedia uses as its lead illustration of a “Saturday night special” – up to $185 for a Ruger SR9, a popular 9mm semiautomatic pistol. The rifle brought $35.
In all, GT Distributors offered $2,335 for the 40 guns, an average price of $58.38 for each. The Statesboro Police Department, which buys ammunition and other items from GT Distributors, will actually receive the $2,335 as a store credit.
The department is responsible for packing and freight charges, and all the guns must be fully functional to get the full credit, GT’s bid sheet states.
Asked Monday by email what choices the Police Department has in getting rid of seized and forfeited guns, Broadhead listed three options: convert them to departmental use, destroy them, or sell them.
Converting these particular firearms to police use would be impractical, he observed.
“We could auction them off to the highest bidder, but we would rather only sell them to a licensed gun dealer with a Federal Firearms License (FFL),” Broadhead wrote. “That way they can control who owns them in the future (through licensed transactions, background checks, etc.), and we can actually get some use of the items through a store credit.”
The credit, he noted, can be used to purchase firearms the department will actually use, as well as ammunition and possibly other things.
The other bidders were Smyrna Police Distributors, offering a store credit of exactly $2,000, and Clyde Armory in Athens, offering only a $250 credit, which Broadhead said may have been more of a gesture to fulfill the request for a bid.
City Council members had received the memo and did not comment on the sale. It was not put to a separate vote but was included as a “consent agenda” item along with approval of minutes from the July 16 meeting. These consent items were approved 5-0 on a motion from Councilman Jeff Yawn seconded by Councilman Sam Lee Jones.
Outside the council chambers after Tuesday morning’s brief open session, another question to Broadhead was whether it might be better from a public safety standpoint to destroy guns of this sort.
“It is an option; there are agencies that do it that way,” he said. “But we kind of take the position that these are just inanimate objects, and if they have some value, why not turn that value into something good for us. Destroying them doesn’t help the taxpayer in any way, and by selling them we get credit, we can purchase things that we need to make our officers better, training materials and those kinds of things.”
In particular, ammunition the Police Department buys from GT Distributors with store credits allows officers to spend more time practicing on the shooting range at no added cost, he said.
AK-47s in March
This was the Statesboro Police Department’s second sale of forfeited and former evidence guns in 2019. In March, GT Distributors of Georgia was also the winning bidder on 13 generally much higher-value weapons, paying $4,005 store credit for the lot, an average of $308 per gun.
In the City Council memo no individual prices were listed for that batch, but it included several long guns. Among them were a 7.62 mm Serbian AK-47 assault-style rifle, plus a gun manufactured by Lancaster and another made by FEG with “AK-47” also as their model name, as well as an Anderson AR-15, a 12-gauge Mossberg Maverick 88 shotgun and a 7mm-08 Remington 700 rifle.
The sale approved Tuesday was of cheaper guns as the department tries to reduce the accumulation in its evidence room, Broadhead said.
“Some of it’s based on the court schedule,” he said. “We have to wait till we get court orders on most of those guns, but some of it had just piled up and it has just been a question of getting caught back up. We’d like to stay on top of it on a more regular basis.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.