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Guns used by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in a
SWAT raid in California could end up in the hands of a local police department in Ohio — if a proposed change in a federal regulation goes into effect as scheduled next month.
In line with the present administration’s policy of expanding the firepower of law enforcement at all levels of government — from the ATF and FBI right down to the local police squad — the General Services
Administration yesterday posted in the Federal Register a proposed amendment to existing regulations that would allow federal agencies to donate “surplus” firearms to state and local law enforcement entities.
At present federal agencies can donate or sell trucks, boats, aircraft
and even space vehicles to state and local agencies and to individuals, but the federal property management regulations drew a line in the sand when it came to agencies like the Forest Service or FBI transferring actual weapons either by gift or sale. If the new regs go unchallenged, part of that prohibition would be removed and state agencies and local police departments would be able to build even greater armories than they can at present.
Specifically, used handguns, rifles, shotguns, individual light automatic weapons up to 50 caliber, and rifle and shoulder-fired grenade
launchers up to 75 mm could be transferred to state agencies for donation to state and local public agencies.
Donations would be “limited to only those law enforcement activities whose primary function is the enforcement of applicable federal, state, and/or local laws, and whose compensated law enforcement officers have powers to apprehend and arrest.”
GSA spokesperson April Kaufman explained the present regulations and proposed changes to WorldNetDaily.
According to Kaufman the proposal is modeled after that of the Department of Defense which is permitted to donate military hardware to state and local agencies.
“This amendment would allow the donation of certain firearms to state
and local government, but would not remove the prohibition on selling or
exchange sales,” she said. “That prohibition would remain in place, and the donation would occur with certain restrictions and processes to go through. For example, we’d track where the firearms go, and they’d have to be disposed of when the state or local agency is finished with them. They couldn’t sell or donate them later on to another entity. They’d have to certify that they had destroyed them.”
Kaufman said the impetus did not come from local government, but from
certain federal agencies — the Department of Justice, the Department of
Treasury, the GSA and subsidiary agencies.
“So under the Department of Justice there was the FBI. Then the Secret
Service and the ATF were involved through Treasury, the Park Service with the Department of Interior and the Department of Energy was involved also,” she said.
“The idea for this really came from the federal law enforcement officers. They hated to see usable weapons destroyed when they know there are local police departments out there that could be using them.”
The proposed amendment is on the Internet at http://jya.com/gsa120998.txt
There’s a 30-day comment period, until January 9, 1999.