Austin Police Can No Longer Sell Used Guns To The Public

May 10, 2018

The Austin City Council passed a resolution today preventing the police department from selling used guns to the public.

The resolution comes in the wake of an investigation by the Texas Standard and the Center for Investigative Reporting that found 21 of the 50 largest law enforcement agencies in Texas sold more than 10,000 weapons in the last decade. Included in that tally were more than 1,100 handguns firearms the Austin Police Department sold to Bailey’s House of Guns in Houston. Money from those sales went toward the department’s acquisition of new weapons.

City officials said they were concerned the guns could slip into the hands of criminals.

“The concern that drove this resolution was one that we did not want our police department to be contributing guns out into the community," Council Member Alison Alter said at a work session Tuesday, "guns that could then ... be used on our police and on our community.”

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The Austin Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Although the gun dealers APD had sold firearms to are required by federal law to run background checks on prospective buyers, the city resolution states that the current system may not be adequate in preventing potential criminals from getting ahold of them.

The resolution mentions holes within the FBI’s background check system, which came to light after the Sutherland Springs shooting. The suspect had been able to buy weapons despite a criminal record that should have blocked him from doing so.

The resolution also refers to the inability to adequately track whether police guns are being used in crimes due to the Tiahrt Amendment, a 2003 congressional law that blocks federal gun-trace data.

The city started moving on a resolution to stop sales after state Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, lambasted city officials in front of thousands of demonstrators during a March For Our Lives event at the Texas Capitol in March.  

“It boggles the mind that here in our own city we allowed our APD to sell its used guns back into the private market," she said.

She demanded that the city stop the practice, “now that we know. Never again!”

Before the Tiahrt Amendment blocked public access to federal gun-trace information, it was widely reported that police guns were being used in crimes. A 1999 investigation by the Denver Post found that former police weapons showed up in crimes across the nation on an average of three times a day. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said that police guns continue to show up in traces of crime guns, but agents are unable to talk specifics due to the secretive nature of trace data.

The Center for Investigative Reporting is suing the Department of Justice and the ATF for the release of more detailed information regarding how often police guns are involved in crimes. The lawsuit is pending in federal court.