Photo: Nick Younson, (CC BY-SA 3.0), Alpha Stock Images
The Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services has started auctioning off evidence guns to federally licensed firearms dealers in accordance with a law enacted in April 2018, according to an article in Seven Days, an independent news outlet in Vermont.
Under the new law, the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services works with evidence clerks to identify, transport, store, and then auction the guns.
Previously, the Vermont Department of Public Safety was charged with storing seized and abandoned guns, and the state treasurer was responsible for their disposal, but no treasurer had acted to put a disposal system in place, according to the article.
“The state treasurer had issues with storage space and determining whether the guns were safe, so no transfers actually occurred,” Christopher Herrick, deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Safety, told America’s 1st Freedom. “So, we worked with the Department of Buildings and General Services to get that changed. We just had firearms around which we couldn't really move for practical purposes. This allows us to open up the stockpiles—the storage capabilities—to alleviate pressures.”
Many of the guns were first confiscated because they were possessed illegally or involved in a crime. However, the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services does not accept guns involved in homicides or suicides, so these are still left for local police to continue storing or to dispose of on their own.
“That, to me, is a real sticking point because, unfortunately, suicide by firearm is very common,” Sgt. Jeff Pearson, who oversees the Montpelier Police Department’s evidence room, told the Seven Days reporters. He estimated that between 10% and 15% of the guns in Montpelier’s possession came from families of suicide victims who do not want them back. “I think being selective is not the right approach. I think there needs to be some kind of mechanism in place to take all of them—or give us another alternative.”
The Department of Buildings and General Services reportedly began auctioning the evidence in 25-gun lots last June. Some unique firearms that have come into their possession, such as two German WWII military guns, are reportedly auctioned individually. The Seven Days article notes that more than $30,000 has been raised in nine auctions so far. A portion of the funds are allocated back to the originating municipality for further evidence storage and handling, with the remainder going to the Department of Buildings and General Services to fund the disposition program.