Mesa on Monday reversed its policy of destroying impounded firearms, clearing the way for city officials to begin auctioning the weapons to licensed gun dealers.
The City Council voted 6-1 to change the policy, which was enacted in 1998. Before then, the city auctioned guns to dealers.
The move is intended to raise revenue for the city treasury and stop the destruction of legal weapons.
Jim Davidson, the former vice mayor who helped enact the 1998 policy, spoke Monday against the change.
He said it was ironic that Mesa police would conduct an auction for seized guns, saying it’s "not unlike having a group meeting at the fire department for arsonists."
Mayor Keno Hawker, a key supporter, called the policy of destroying weapons "feel-good measures that don’t accomplish anything."
As a council member and then as mayor, Hawker tried to change the law several times since 1998, but was outvoted. He found the support he needed with the election last year of three conservative, pro-gun council members.
Councilman Mike Whalen, a former Mesa assistant police chief, said the change makes sense.
"In my opinion, it’s not that large of an issue to the officer on the street," Whalen said.
Four people spoke against the change, including Vice Mayor Dennis Kavanaugh, who cast the dissenting vote.
"I do believe there is some risk" for liability, Kavanaugh said, contradicting City Attorney Debbie Spinner’s legal opinion that the city would not be held liable if it sold a weapon later used in a crime. Spinner’s opinion is based on court rulings.
Kavanaugh said he’d prefer that the city be known for its good schools instead of for marketing and selling weapons. He suggested that the revenue from gun sales be put in a special account to buy protection gear for police. He said the current policy was working, and mirrored how other large U.S. cities deal with confiscated weapons.
Under the new policy, handguns and rifles valued at more than $100 will be auctioned in lots of 100. Military-style assault weapons and any firearms that are illegal or were used in violent crimes or for suicide would still be destroyed. Stolen weapons are destroyed if the owners can’t be found.
Mesa last auctioned guns in 1997, selling 346 firearms for a net profit of $32,000, according to city records. Since 1998, records show the city has destroyed 1,892 firearms.