After Claflin Chief of Police Gary Vaughan was required to turn over guns once used by officers in his department to the Kansas Department of Administration and witness their destruction at the Claflin City Shop on Oct. 31, he swore he would not remain quiet. At the state level, guns seized in a crime are routinely processed and sold at auction, the proceeds bolstering the general funds of the acting police department. He wanted answers about why the same wasn’t true at the federal level.
“I’m not done with this,” he said. He began reaching out to his elected representatives Washington.
Congressman Roger Marshall was quick to respond. He had plenty of questions too after Vaughan reached out to him. Marshall is a strong proponent of Second Amendment rights, according to his aid, William Wozniak. Not only was he appalled by the destruction of the guns purchased with taxpayer dollars, but also costs incurred at taxpayer expense to send someone out to ensure the guns were destroyed, and the value of the time spent by public servants to complete the order.
After reading the Tribune’s Nov. 1, 2017 report, “Chop Shop” detailing the action, Marshall reached out to the National Rifle Association to determine if this was a common complaint. He also ordered an investigation to determine what legal grounds there were to the order.
The Tribune contacted the Kansas Department of Administration, where the order originated. That department has been destroying guns for the federal government for years, the Tribune It’s what happens to guns when they are returned by law enforcement agencies when no other agency can be found that wants to receive them through the federal General Services Administration program since 1997.
According to John Milborne with the Kansas Department of Administration Public Relations Office, agencies throughout the state that are participating in the program are given the opportunity to accept additional weapons or upgrade what they have. Efforts are also made to find agencies in other states who wish to take the weapons. If no law enforcement agency can be found to accept the guns, current federal legislation requires the guns be destroyed.
It was a little over a year since Vaughan contacted the KDA to make arrangement to return the guns, and in that time, it was determined there was no interest nor demand for them, and so the KDA in compliance with the GSA program made arrangements to destroy the guns, Milborne said.
Milborne said the number of agencies that turn in guns each year fluctuates from year to year, and the rules for determining what happens to them when they are returned have been in place since the beginning of the program many years ago. There simply are no provisions to allow for the sale of the weapons.
In its investigation, the Tribune learned the GSA and the Defense Logistics Agency are closely related, each operating a similar program where weapons retired from military service are loaned to law enforcement agencies around the country. The GSA program exclusively deals with small arms, while the DLA deals with military grade weapons and equipment. After the 2014 Ferguson riots following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson, the Obama administration in 2015 took a closer look at both programs and increased the amount of training and accountability of law enforcement agencies participating. In 2016, the increased regulations filtered down to the Claflin Police Department, prompting Vaughan to return the four guns and purchase replacements. He was not alone, as it was learned that other departments around the state were also being visited by a representative of the KDA that week to pick up and destroy small arms.
This unintended consequence was not accounted for when the 2015 requirements were advanced, Congressman Marshall’s office deduced.
Friday, Dec. 22, Wozniak reported Marshall has been working with House counsel since he was made aware of the Claflin incident to develop legislation to curb the destruction of U.S. weapons unnecessarily.
“Congressman Marshall has certainly seen and heard of situations with Second Amendment legislation,” Wozniak said. A report as to whether he has the jurisdiction to do so is expected early in January when Congress returns from recess. At the very least, Marshall will seek to advance a resolution, Wozniak said.
During his department report at the November Claflin City Council meeting, Vaughan said he is still waiting to hear back from the White House and from Sen. Jerry Moran’s office. He is looking forward to learning what Marshall’s next move will be.