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Michigan Vows to Destroy Buyback Guns After Resale Uproar

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Michigan Vows to Destroy Buyback Guns After Resale Uproar

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Michigan will no longer allow guns marked for destruction to be sold online as parts — a change prompted by public anger over revelations that firearms turned in through buyback programs were not being destroyed as promised.

Michigan State Police, responsible for collecting unwanted firearms from local law enforcement, said on Tuesday that the weapons would now be crushed and melted down “in their entirety” at a scrap metal site. The agency said it had disposed of 11,582 guns last year.

The policy change came after The New York Times reported in December that communities across the country that claimed to be removing guns from the streets through buyback programs, as well as eliminating confiscated or surplus weapons, were allowing them back on the market. Cities were handing off the guns to companies that disposed of a single regulated component containing the serial number; the businesses then sold the rest of the parts online, often as nearly complete gun kits.

Some law enforcement officials and gun control advocates worried that the kits were being used to build so-called ghost guns — untraceable homemade firearms.

The largest of the disposal companies, Gunbusters of Missouri, said that it had taken in more than 200,000 guns from about 950 law enforcement agencies over the past decade; Michigan State Police was its biggest client. After the Times investigation, community leaders and public officials in Michigan raised objections to the arrangement, and the state police said in January that they would re-evaluate it, leading to the announcement on Tuesday.

“This new method will improve public safety by ensuring all parts of a firearm are destroyed, never to be used again,” said Col. James F. Grady II, director of the state police.

Beyond Michigan, members of Congress have also expressed concern over the failure to ensure that guns collected through buyback events were not fully destroyed, contrary to what the public was led to believe. In a typical buyback, people are encouraged to turn in firearms to the police in exchange for a gift card or some other incentive.

Citing the Times article, Representatives Dan Goldman of New York and Gabe Amo of Rhode Island, both Democrats, wrote a letter asking the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to take steps to stop the resale of gun parts. The bureau’s position has been that, under the law, disposing of just the one regulated component — called the receiver or frame — is sufficient to consider the weapon inoperable and destroyed.

“We are concerned that current A.T.F. guidance on the destruction of firearms does not account for this regulatory gap,” the congressmen’s letter said.

Even though the remaining gun parts are not subject to regulation, the A.T.F. released a statement in December saying its “recommended best practice” is for law enforcement agencies “to destroy the entire firearm, including all unregulated parts.”

“This is particularly true given the increasing criminal use of untraceable privately made firearms (‘ghost guns’), which are often assembled with used firearm parts,” the statement said.

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