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Tarrant County approves sheriff office’s sale of forfeited guns. Here are the buyers

In World
February 23, 2024

In a party line vote Wednesday, the Tarrant County Commissioners Court approved the sale of 21 forfeited firearms by the sheriff’s office to gun distributors in Texas and Arizona.

The five-commissioner court approved the bid in a 3-2 vote after hearing from four citizens who asked that they reject the measure, citing various concerns. Republicans Tim O’Hare, Gary Fickes and Manny Ramirez voted for the sale, which was opposed by Democrats Roy Charles Brooks and Alisa Simmons.

Of the 21 guns, 18 will be sold to ProForce Marketing Inc., based in Prescott, Arizona. Three will be sold to Pflugerville-based GT Distributors, Inc. The total sale price will be $46,322.

Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn said in an emailed statement that the guns were seized from people who possessed them illegally, but he did not specify what kinds of guns are being sold.

“These guns will be sold to legal gun dealers who will then have the option to sell them to citizens who complete the necessary background checks to own a firearm,” he said.

Waybourn called the citizens who spoke ahead of the vote “anti-Second Amendment” and unpatriotic.

“I would not prophesize that someone buying a new car will get drunk, drive on the highway and kill another person and it is anti-American to assume legal gun owners will violate the law in some future hypothetical situation,” he said.

ProForce sells guns to law enforcement professionals, first responders, as well as active duty and retired military through ProForce Law Enforcement. It sells guns to the general public through a sister company named Davidson’s, which operates the website Gallery of Guns.

A company representative did not immediately respond to questions about whether the guns bought from the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department would be sold to the general public.

A representative from GT Distributors was not available to answer questions, but a company telephone operator confirmed that it sells guns to the general public.

All four public comments ahead of the vote expressed disapproval of the bid.

Speaking first, former Democratic state Rep. Lon Burnam of Fort Worth said the sale was “not appropriate for the county government to be doing,” citing both economic and public safety concerns.

“One, you shouldn’t be selling a product that is easily available on the open market, you’re interfering with free market capitalism,” he told the commissioners. “Two, you should not be putting weapons back onto the street to do the same harm that they have already done.”

Doreen Geiger said she was “appalled and shocked” at the idea of the sale. “There certainly is no shortage of guns,” she said. “Selling these guns is absurd.” She also asked about the possibility of the sheriff’s office being exposed to liability in the event that one of the guns is used in a future crime.

That chance is unlikely, as the office would be covered by qualified immunity, according to Dru Stevenson, a law professor at the South Texas College of Law Houston. Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that shields law enforcement and other governmental officials from liability in cases where they allegedly violate a person’s constitutional rights.

Police departments generally incinerate forfeited guns, Stevenson said, but he has seen a few other cases of law enforcement agencies making similar sales.

The Fort Worth Police Department destroys all forfeited guns after ensuring that they were not reported stolen or used in a major crime, a spokesperson said in an email. Some confiscated firearms can be kept by the department to use for training purposes, but most are destroyed as well.

The sale is part of the official platform of the National Rifle Association, Stevenson said, but it has little real-world value to police forces beyond “the principle of the thing that they can think guns are sort of sacred and they don’t want to admit that the number of guns and all correlates to crime, even though it there’s a lot of evidence that it does.”

The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As with gun buyback programs, the sale of forfeited guns is largely a symbolic act, Stevenson said. Buyback programs rarely attract high-powered or even functional guns, but they show a willingness to want to get guns off the streets. Putting guns back on the market reveals the opposite, he said.

“It sends a message about whether the government wants to have more guns in circulation or not, and whether they think that contributes to gun violence,” he said.

“If the police in Tarrant County are sending the message: hey, we love guns, we want everybody to have guns, and everybody in a road rage incident has a gun in their car, then it escalates the risk of violence,” he said. “Put guns in the mix, and then we have dead bodies.”

Guns were used in Tarrant County road rage incidents in January, twice in July,and in August, October and December of last year.

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