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Cops selling assault rifles

When law enforcement agencies in Washington and other states sell guns they've confiscated during criminal investigations, they're not just selling pistols and hunting rifles, they're also putting assault weapons, including AR-15s, back on the street.

Sheriff's offices and police departments across Washington state have sold dozens of AR-15s, AK47s and other assault weapons since 2010, an Associated Press investigation found.

Most states allow law enforcement agencies to decide whether to sell, trade or destroy their confiscated firearms, but a growing list of states has passed laws in recent years requiring agencies to sell all forfeited guns. Supporters say selling seized guns provides law enforcement with needed revenue, and if the practice were abandoned, people would just buy weapons somewhere else.

But Yakima Police Captain Jeff Schneider said it's "absolutely insane" that police are selling assault weapons.

"It's a bad idea to sell guns. It's a really bad idea to sell an assault rifle," said Schneider, whose agency melts down confiscated guns. "It's possible a firearm sold by a police agency could be used in a mass shooting, but since they are rare, it's more likely it could be used in a crime against police. That's a real threat."

The Washington State Patrol, which is required by law to auction or trade most of its confiscated guns, traded a Colt .223-calibre AR-15 in 2014, an SKS assault rifle in 2012 and an AK-47 Russian assault rifle in 2014. They were then sold to the public.

The State Patrol's latest trade was with a gun dealer in Knoxville, Tennessee, in December. The batch of 331 guns included five assault rifles.

"The fact that Washington state is acting as an arms dealer terrifies me," said Democratic Rep. Tana Senn of Bellevue, who has sponsored a bill that would allow the patrol to destroy seized guns. "I don't think that should be their role."

Police and sheriff's offices in other states that require law enforcement to sell guns — including Arizona, North Dakota, and Georgia — also have sold assault weapons, the AP found.

In Washington, more than a dozen of the guns sold by law enforcement since 2010 ended up in new crimes, the AP found , and while none was an assault rifle, many fear it's only a matter of time.

Assault rifles are the weapons of choice in mass shootings. An AR-15-style assault rifle was used in this month's deadly shooting at a Florida high school, as well as mass shootings at a Las Vegas music festival; a Texas church; an Orlando, Florida, nightclub; a San Bernardino, California, social services centre; a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school; and an Aurora, Colorado, movie theatre.

AR-15s and other assault-style weapons were fashioned after military rifles, but were made lighter for civilian use. They are semi-automatic weapons that shoot high-velocity ammunition, which causes significant damage. They're designed to accept high-capacity magazines that can hold up to 30 rounds.

In Washington, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office sold a DPMS Panther AR-15 in 2016. The agency sells its confiscated guns through a Post Falls, Idaho, auction house. The Thurston County Narcotics Task Force sold two AR-15s in 2010. One went for $250, and the other for $370.

Buying a new model runs between $650 and $950 online



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