Magnum onus: Police departments grapple with what to do with seized firearms 

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, November 21, 2017 10:28AM

Last week, Rindge officers arrested a man, who is also a gun owner, on domestic assault charges.

The next day, after booking the man, officers took his four firearms back to the station and filed them into their evidence room. A room where firearms and other gun parts are starting to pile up.

“There is currently piles of stuff that needs to be destroyed,” Rindge Police Chief Dan Anair said. “This is definitely an issue for us.”

Convicted felons and people facing domestic charges cannot possess guns, according to state law, and police are required to keep firearms until a case wraps up. If a person is cleared of their charges, the court can order that the guns be given back to the owner. If the person is charged, the court can order that the guns be released to a family or friend close to the owner. Police said one of those two scenarios most often plays out.

But sometimes, the guns just stay in the evidence room. 

“We keep firearms in evidence until a judge orders otherwise,” Sgt. Jeffrey Seppala said about the process.

Anair said some of the firearms in their possession aren’t acceptable for anyone to own, like machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. Anair said usable parts are often removed from those firearms, but other parts tend to sit in the room.

Jaffrey Police Chief William Oswalt said firearms can pile up if department’s don’t stay on top of disposing of them when necessary. He said they have to follow a sequence of procedures, involving the courts, that can be time-consuming. 

Oswalt said in the rare instance they have to dispose of a firearm, they use a machine to saw through the barrel or crush it to render the firearm unusable.

Anair said he’s asked around for advice about what to do with some of the guns in the evidence room but hasn’t received a firm answer. That’s in part because no one wants to be responsible for disposing of the firearm in case they are used in a crime down the line.

Anair said he’s thought of breaking them down himself with a metal torch, but said he thought better of it because if someone had any mechanical skill, they could re-weld and reuse it.

“It all comes back to liability,” Anair said.

Greenfield Police Chief Brian Giammarino said the department has about a handful of firearms in its evidence room now. He said the majority of those are awaiting a court decision. He said the last time firearms were disposed was in 2003. Giammarino said the guns were taken to a company in Massachusetts that destroyed them.

Anair said not too long ago he learned about a company that melts down various parts of a gun. He said the company takes pictures and records video footage of the process. They receive a certification once the process has been completed. Anair said he hasn’t secured a relationship with the company, but that it is a possible solution to the issue.

Until he gets an answer from the company, the gun parts will remain.

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.