Pentagon Shooting Guns Linked To Tennessee
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
The guns that were used in the shootings at the Pentagon and a Las Vegas courthouse this year have been traced back to the police and court system in Memphis. The Associated Press reports that the weapons had originally been seized by authorities in criminal cases. Later they were sold by the Memphis police and sheriff's offices to licensed gun dealers. And ultimately the weapons made their way into the hands of the shooters.
So, one question is, why were local authorities selling these confiscated weapons in the first place? Tennessee State Senator Doug Jackson, a democrat, cosponsored a bill that says law enforcement agencies can only destroy a gun in their custody if it is deemed inoperable or unsafe.
And he joins us from Dickson, Tennessee. Senator Jackson, welcome to the program.
State Senator DOUG JACKSON (Democrat, Tennessee): It's my pleasure. Thank you.
BLOCK: Tell us why you sponsored this measure.
State Sen. JACKSON: Guns are a legal product to own. Law enforcement has always had the right and discretion to sell firearms that they have seized to lawful gun dealers. And then the revenue from the sale of those firearms go back to the benefit of the law enforcement agency.
BLOCK: And how many guns how much money do you figure is at stake here in your state of Tennessee?
State Sen. JACKSON: I don't think it's very much at all. Some law enforcement agencies routinely sell guns, others look at it as more of a bother because they confiscate so few firearms.
BLOCK: I'm curious, then, though, if there isn't a whole lot of money involved here, as you say, why the need for this bill, do you think?
State Sen. JACKSON: Well, when we talk about a lot of money, law enforcement is constantly searching for new funds. So in the scheme of things, no, I don't think it's a lot of money, but every bit helps.
BLOCK: There are, of course, a number of jurisdictions that confiscate guns and destroy them. They want to get them off the streets. And I want to run by you something that a gun control advocacy group told us today. They said, why put guns back on the street and create the cycle that police are supplying the very criminals they're trying to stop? Does that make sense to you?
State Sen. JACKSON: Well, it's the characterization that they use. Guns on the street. Nobody wants to see, quote, unquote, "guns on the street," but I think we all recognize that guns in the hands of law abiding citizens is not a bad thing. Guns can cause great harm and guns can also protect someone from great harm. So, criminals will always have access to guns on the street. That is a fact. I'm not for putting guns on the street. I'm for guns that are being sold legally through licensed dealers being sold to law abiding citizens.
BLOCK: But, of course, in these cases, while they were originally sold to licensed dealers, they did end up in the hands of a man who was mentally ill and in the other case, a convicted felon. I wonder if you could make the argument that the more guns there are on the market, the cheaper they'll be. You'll basically be flooding the market and making them more available.
State Sen. JACKSON: No, I don't think that argument works at all. Actually, if you - since 1990, almost 100 million guns have been sold through licensed dealers in this country. And yet, what we see today is our violent crime rate is the lowest that it has been in 40 years. More guns do not result in more crime.
BLOCK: Well, as it happens, the governor of Tennessee, Phil Bredesen, signed your legislation on March 4th, which is the day of the Pentagon shooting. When you learned that the weapons used in these crimes had been traced back to authorities in Memphis, what was your first thought?
State Sen. JACKSON: Coincidence, just sheer coincidence. I mean, the fact that that gun was sold in the city of Memphis, that transaction could've occurred anywhere anytime. The city of Memphis or the sheriff's department is not responsible for someone's criminal intent. That person would've had access to a gun, could get a gun in our society. That's just a fact that we can't deny.
BLOCK: Senator Jackson, thank you very much.
State Sen. JACKSON: Thank you very much.
BLOCK: That's Democratic State Senator Doug Jackson of Tennessee.
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