County police move to keep their old guns off the street – but at a cost

As Baltimore County police replace nearly 2,000 service weapons, they won't allow the old ones to be sold in gun shops — a decision that will prevent firearms from entering the open market but could triple the agency's cost.

Officials will instead try to sell the weapons to county police officers or to other law enforcement agencies, spokeswoman Elise Armacost said.


The department had planned to sell its 15-year-old Sig Sauers to a wholesaler, but realized it couldn't be certain they wouldn't wind up in private hands, Armacost said. The change will cost the county nearly $700,000.

Maryland police departments have struggled with how best to dispose of used weapons since 2007, when a bill to allow resale passed the General Assembly. Some law enforcement agencies argued at the time that the practice would help hold down costs.


But in 2011, allegations emerged that a gun formerly owned by Baltimore City police had been used years earlier in the Oklahoma murder of two girls, raising concerns among law enforcement agencies about adding to the proliferation of weapons on the streets.

Baltimore has since declined to sell guns back to manufacturers, forgoing substantial incentives. Maryland State Police and departments in Harford and Anne Arundel counties have continued to sell used guns back to the companies that made them.

Baltimore County Police Chief James W. Johnson has been a vocal proponent of new gun laws. He appeared before a U.S. Senate committee this year to push for an assault weapons ban and stiffer background checks in the wake of the mass shooting at Newtown, Conn.

Johnson, the chairman of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, declined to comment through Armacost. She said the chief and County Executive Kevin Kamenetz decided against the trade-in after officials realized there was a possibility of resale.

In 2011, Baltimore police similarly said they would not sell a stockpile of 9 mm handguns back to Glock, citing moral concerns. The move cost the city more than $500,000 in rebates.

"If we put guns back on the street and they're used in a crime, do we bear some responsibility for putting them back into circulation?" retired Baltimore Deputy Police Commissioner Bert F. Shirey said at the time.

That year, Oklahoma police said a former Baltimore police departmental .40-caliber Glock Model 22 semiautomatic pistol was later purchased by a man who had used it in 2008 to shoot two young girls.

The department had returned the gun and others because of defective firing pins and other problems. Maryland law had forbidden law enforcement agencies from returning old weapons to manufacturers, except defective weapons.

Agencies could sell weapons to officers or other police agencies, or to melt them down.

Then the General Assembly changed the law, permitting police departments to sell guns back to manufacturers.

Glock refurbished the Baltimore police gun, which was sold out of an Oklahoma gun store and later purchased by the shooter. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is still offering a $5,000 reward for the missing Glock. Authorities said previously they believe it was sold at a gun show after the killings. They said they made the connection using shell casings.

The county's new guns, to cost about $1 million, are manufactured by FNH USA. The original deal would have cost the county under $300,000.


According to the company website, Baltimore County is the largest law enforcement agency in the country to use the company's FNS line of striker-fired pistols as service weapons.

The department will begin receiving the new guns over the next two months.

Armacost said a committee consisting of field officers and range personnel began evaluating different types of guns more than a year ago before deciding on the new model.

They assessed reliability, the service record of the manufacturer, the availability of ambidextrous controls and the ability to customize the hand grip, she said.


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