Pricey Colt AR-15 Assault Rifle Among Guns Turned in at Phoenix Police Buyback Event

Categories: Guns

ar15 rifle.JPG
After New Times writer Matthew Hendley reported that Phoenix police took in an assault rifle at last weekend's "buyback" event, we were curious what kind of gun it was.

Turns out that, in exchange for a $200 gift certificate, an anonymous donor gave up a Colt AR-15 believed to be good condition, a firearm that might have netted a seller $1,000 to $2,000 on the open market.

The donor apparently needed inner peace more than money.

See also: Phoenix Police Took in 803 Guns in Latest Buyback, but Just One Assault Rifle

Phoenix police plan to destroy the AR-15 and the 802 other guns received in the buyback event, which was conducted in participation with a gun-control group and used $100,000 in private donations.

As New Times writer Matthew Hendley reported yesterday, police also took in 442 handguns, 162 shotguns and 198 rifles. Donors received $100 for each gun; the $200 gift was only for honest-to-gosh assault rifles.

Yes, we understand that many folks might take issue with calling the AR-15 an "assault rifle." But Phoenix PD also uses the nomenclature, categorizing "assault rifles" by the type of round they take, not how militaristic they look, says Sergeant Steve Martos, PPD spokesman. In case you wondering, the turned-in Colt takes 5.56mm/.223-caliber ammo.

Demand for AR-15s has been off the charts in recent months as lawmakers debate banning them. Though popular with gun enthusiasts, the rifle has been vilified by gun-control advocates, especially since a Bushmaster AR-15 was used by Adam Lanza in December to gun down 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut.

Most of the guns taken in, Martos says, were probably worth $100 to $300. Police didn't appraise them. Many of those donors may have lost some money on the deal, but nothing in the range of several hundred dollars, as the Colt could have fetched.

Because donors in the event remained anonymous, Martos didn't have the "why or who" on the Colt donation.

"For all I know, it was used in a crime the night before and they want to dispose of it," he says.

Donald Plante, owner of Don's Guns in Gilbert, just doesn't get it when it comes to buyback events. Someone could probably have taken the AR-15 to a gun store and sold it for at least $800, he surmises.

He believes it's ridiculous to destroy guns: "They can take and sell those guns and make a nifty profit."

Of course, that's just what state lawmakers were thinking when they passed a law, signed by Governor Jan Brewer last week, that prohibits cities from destroying buyback-event guns, instead requiring them to sell the weapons to dealers.

The person who turned in the AR-15 may have felt strongly that the gun should be destroyed so it would never be used in a Newtown-like massacre. But if the gun had been sold to a dealer, a background check for the next buyer would have been conducted. The donor's gun might have been snapped up by, say, someone like Mark Kelly. What's the harm in that?

On the other hand, if a would-be killer wants an AR-15, they'll get one. That means the only benefit to the donor -- who, again, apparently doesn't need money -- is a warm, fuzzy feeling.

We asked Martos whether police feel safer since the gun buyback program. He laughs heartily for a few seconds before admitting it's a tricky question.

"We understand there's no direct link between these events and crime reduction," he says. "It's geared toward people who want to dispose of an unwanted weapon. And we do think there's a potential where we might reduce or prevent an injury, either from someone who is accidentally shot with one of these guns, or because it was used in a crime like a burglary."

Ultimately, police believe the buyback program "is still effective in some way," he says.

In the case of the donated Colt AR-15, it was effective in causing someone to lose money -- and perhaps sleep better.


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18 comments
Nick_Hentoff
Nick_Hentoff

Did the PhxPD check to see if the AR-15 was stolen, or run a background check on the person who sold them the gun to see if he was a prohibited possessor and subject to mandatory prison time under Federal law? A quick Google search would have revealed that gun violence studies have shown that gun buybacks don't work to reduce violence and are a waste of scare anti-violence resources:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/12/gun-buybacks-popular-but-ineffective/1829165/

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/13/04/04/do-gun-buybacks-reduce-gun-violence/

http://articles.latimes.com/2009/may/12/opinion/ed-buybacks12



TaxpayingVoter
TaxpayingVoter

A lot of those guns are old and no one would want them.  I wouldn't mind if the police pulled out the salable ones and sold them for cash for the victim's fund or something, but the others should certainly be able to be destroyed.

I think the law is ignorant.

Brendle
Brendle

"But Phoenix PD also uses the nomenclature, categorizing "assault rifles" by the type of round they take, not how militaristic they look, says Sergeant Steve Martos, PPD spokesman."

 Defining an "assault rifle" by the type of round a gun uses is even more absurd than defining it by how militaristic it looks not less absurd. There are .223 bolt action rifles.

jonnyquest
jonnyquest topcommenter

Just noticed a "No Firearms" sign at my local Harkins theater. Too bad that theater in Aurora didn't have one of those signs posted.

jonnyquest
jonnyquest topcommenter

"For all I know, it was used in a crime the night before and they want to dispose of it." "...or because it was used in a crime like a burglary." You're damn right they are going to sleep better. The evidence is going to be destroyed.

squash
squash

Hmmmmm, I don't really know how to gauge this article. Is it pro-buyback or anti-buyback....or neither?

bgray59
bgray59

@Nick_Hentoff  The national Institute of Justice did a white paper for the Department of Justice which refutes many of the assertions of the current round of gun control measures and the effectiveness of buyback programs.

The following  article has a good discussion.  The second link is to a copy of the report which was distributed by the NRA.  I like to give a second source on any references to the NRA in order to defang the antis who will try to divert the discussion to the  evil NRA rather that discus the issue on its merits.

http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/crime/item/14630-justice-dept-memo-admits-obama-gun-strategy-won%E2%80%99t-impact-crime-pushes-registration

www.nraila.org/media/10883516/nij-gun-policy-memo.pdf

valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

@Nick_Hentoff They did check the serial numbers and found that a handful had been reported as stolen.   Buy-backs are anonymous, to encourage criminals to turn in their weapons.

valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

@TaxpayingVoter  If they're unsafe, they can't legally be sold and can be destroyed.  If they're not unsafe, then there is a market for them.

valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

@Brendle  I like to tell people that the extra 0.003 inch in diameter makes all the difference.

Actually, I'll bet their definition also requires that it be auto-loading, and maybe a few other characteristics in addition to caliber.


valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

@jonnyquest  That's pretty unlikely though.  You've got to be remarkably stupid to use an expensive rifle in a crime.  It's stupid to use ANY rifle in a crime, since it's not something you can conceal and is a poor tactical choice in close quarters.

valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

@squash  It's what we used to call "balanced reporting".  You don't see much of it anymore.

RayStern3000
RayStern3000

@valleynative @Brendle Hi. After seeing Brendle's comment, I double-checked with the PPD.

Martos told me that another criteria for the "assault rifle" categorization was that the gun had to be magazine-fed, so that would eliminate the bolt-actions. He also made it clear that PPD only created that designation of "assault rifle" for the buyback program, and that the term isn't usually used by PPD to refer to types of guns. Whether you still think PPD is "absurd" in how it defined assault rifles for this program is up to you, but my article should have originally included both of those criteria, (ie, round type AND magazine-fed).

Also, Martos told me that only one gun bought in the weekend's buyback program was found to have been stolen. The week previous saw "3 or 4" guns that were found to have been stolen. The stolen guns aren't destroyed, but impounded until the owner can be found, he said.


Ray

jonnyquest
jonnyquest topcommenter

I was quoting the Phx PD spokesman. I think the most likely explanation is that a bitter, soon to be ex wife took it from her unsuspecting husband's safe. Either way, the truth will never be known since the guns are accepted "no questions asked". What is "remarkably stupid" is that the Phx PD is supposedly trying to link the guns to crimes. Why?

bgray59
bgray59

@RayStern3000 @valleynative @Brendle There are a number of bolt action rifles which are magazine fed, have flash suppressors and bayonet lugs on them.  I believe that Ruger makes their scout rifle in 223.

jonnyquest
jonnyquest topcommenter

Ray, another pertinent question for the PPD is regarding the processing of the collected guns. Local TV reports are that the guns are being checked to see if they have been used in a crime. Are they all being test fired? Are the resulting bullets compared to bullets recovered from crime scenes? If there is a match, then what? How do they determine the perpetrator of the crime? Is there an estimate of the time and cost to the PPD?

valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

@RayStern3000 @valleynative  Thanks for the update.  In the context of reassuring us that the "assault rifle" wasn't just a dressed up .22, the original answer was reasonable, and if they didn't volunteer the other criteria, I don't think you can be blamed for not realizing there must be more.

valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

@jonnyquest  Understood. I didn't mean to sound like I was criticizing you.   I agree on all points.  My best guess as to why they want to test the guns is that if they didn't, some defense lawyer would try to convince the jury that the evidence that would have cleared his client was in the hands of the police, but they destroyed it.  I've served on juries where the defense lawyer tried wilder stories.

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