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Minneapolis police stop selling used guns after WCCO report, but it remains a common practice in Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS— An investigation by WCCO and CBS News led to a policy change by the Minneapolis Police Department, which no longer sells police-issued weapons once they are no longer needed.

As part of a partnership with nonprofit newsrooms – The Center for Investigative Reporting’s The Trace and Reveal – WCCO Senior Investigative Reporter Jennifer Mayerle discovered that many of them had been sold or were trading back on the market.

CBS News reports that some police departments sold them directly to their own officers. Some weapons were later involved in shootings, domestic violence incidents and other violent crimes.

A weapon is part of an officer’s uniform

“All of our officers, sworn officers, are issued a service pistol, and that applies across the board,” said Assistant St. Paul Police Chief Jack Serier.

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Serier says the department is upgraded every five to 10 years due to wear and tear. When the time comes, the department sells to a federal firearms dealer, known as an FFL. The St. Paul Police Department has sold more than 900 handguns and shotguns since 2015.

“Well, there are right and wrong ways to get rid of firearms,” Serier said when asked why the firearms are sold or traded to an FFL. “We want to do it the right way every time. We care deeply about gun violence in our community. We want to make sure they go through the proper process to find and resell people who are qualified to purchase firearms.”

Serier says the department is taking fiscal responsibility into account.

“Well, we looked at the overall cost of not doing that. Absolutely, the firearms we’ve used tend to have good resale value,” Serier said, when asked if they ever considered not selling the guns back.

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Serier says the department typically recovers 75% of the cost of a replacement firearm, reducing the overall cost of purchasing new firearms. It has saved about $270,000 in taxpayer money over the past decade.

The Minneapolis Police Department is making a policy change on gun sales

Miki Lewis Frost founded the Truce Center, a place whose goal is to quell conflict without violence. One of the centerpieces of the institution is a reflection wall.

“All of these individuals here were murdered by gun violence. So this is my way of letting the families know that they are still here with us,” said Lewis Frost.

He’s trying to keep kids alive, away from guns.

“I worry about every gun in the community with the work I do. There is no caliber that can’t kill you,” said Lewis Frost.

Still, he says he’s OK with agencies selling and trading firearms back to FFLs.

“If it’s used to continue to fund the police, you know, and it helps them be able to do that, then I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” Lewis Frost said.

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Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara took a stronger stance. This month, he made a change to stop selling or trading the department’s weapons.

“I don’t want to sell a firearm back to an FFL, and that’s my policy going forward. I’m going to put that in writing today,” O’Hara said.



The Minneapolis Police Department only started purchasing service firearms for sworn officers in 2018. Before then, officers bought their own guns. Those weapons are built in.

Since the gun purchase, the department has sold approximately 200 issued shotguns and rifles to an FFL for approximately $70,000.

“I don’t want us to be in a position where a weapon that was once in service with the police here is then used in a crime or, you know, in an act of violence against a person, or, you know, even to kill a person.” shooting a police officer. So going forward, we’re not going to sell guns at all,” O’Hara said.

The updated statement from the Minneapolis Police Department says firearms and firearm parts will not be sold and will be destroyed.

Other agencies are responding to gun sales to FFLs

WCCO also obtained data from the Hennepin and Ramsey County sheriff’s offices, along with the Minnesota State Patrol. The agencies all sell their guns to a licensed dealer, such as the St. Paul Police Department.

The Minnesota State Patrol told WCCO:

“The trade-in of used Minnesota State Patrol (MSP) firearms back to the reputable, licensed firearms dealers with whom the MSP partners has historically been used as a contract condition for an agency’s purchase of new service weapons. This practice has been fiscally responsible since the The resale value offsets a large portion of the costs associated with new service firearms for the agency. As these traded-in firearms are sold back to these specific suppliers, we are confident that those involved in future transactions involving these firearms will comply with the laws. to buy them legally.”

The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office said:

“To be as fiscally responsible as possible with taxpayer dollars, firearms in need of replacement are eligible for credit trading to specific companies that hold a Federal Firearms License (FFL). These companies are federally licensed and regulated by the U.S. Department of Justice. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). This practice offsets the cost of new firearms to taxpayers. We also do this for vehicles. This policy is common to law enforcement agencies across the country and we are not discussing any changes to the practice at this time.”

And we heard from the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office: INSERT QUOTE HERE

Most agencies allow officers to purchase their service weapons from the FFL if they wish.

A joint investigation by CBS News, The Trace and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting found at least 52,000 incidents nationwide in which guns used in crimes were traced back to a law enforcement agency. The investigation also found more than 140 police agencies sell or trade their guns, allowing dealers to then resell them. Here’s a look at the main findings of the study.

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