AUGUSTA — City councilors said the city should sell, not destroy, most firearms forfeited to police, but not guns used in homicides or other violent crimes.

City administrators and police had brought a policy question for city councilors to discuss Thursday: When the city ends up with guns forfeited for various reasons to police, should those guns be sold or destroyed?

Most councilors indicated informally the city should sell guns it ends up with, other than guns used in violent crimes such as homicides.

“This is obviously a sensitive topic right now,” Ward 3 Councilor Patrick Paradis said, referring to the Oct. 1 shooting deaths of nine victims at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. However, Paradis agreed with other councilors who said Thursday that the city should sell the weapons to a licensed firearms dealer.

“But if it has been involved in a violent crime, or been seized by police more than once in commission of a crime, it should be destroyed,” Paradis said. “I like the idea. If it has been used in a crime to victimize somebody, we ought to consider destroying the weapon, so it doesn’t victimize someone else.”

No councilors spoke in favor of destroying all guns so they could never be used again.

“I have no problem with the idea of putting these out to bid,” Ward 2 Councilor Darek Grant said. “It’s pretty routine. We’ve done this with real estate, talked about how to move forward, as a council. That’s very similar to what we’re doing tonight.”

At-Large Councilor Jeffrey Bilodeau said he doesn’t think the city should sell assault-type weapons or guns that hold more than 30 rounds.

City resident Jarody, who has only one name, objected to that preference.

“To just destroy something because it’s a better tool, which is essentially what a firearm is — a tool — that’s not right,” Jarody said in advocating that the city also sell larger-capacity firearms if it has any in its forfeited inventory. “Especially when there is a potential price tag on that tool.”

City Manager William Bridgeo said the city previously has sold seized guns to licensed gun dealers who bid on the firearms, though it has not done so in many years.

He said the city would sell the firearms only to a licensed, reputable dealer. Licensed firearms dealers must conduct background checks before selling any guns.

The city’s Police Department ends up with guns, other than the firearms purchased for use by officers, in a variety of ways, according to Deputy Chief Jared Mills.

Some are seized during police busts and/or forfeited in court proceedings. Some guns are recovered during an investigation into a theft, and the guns are never claimed by their original owners, or the owners can’t be identified. Some are held by the department for safekeeping, and the owner never comes back to get them. Some are used in a suicide.

Mills said the department has 72 firearms it has inventoried and could sell. He said it also has another 30 or so that have not yet been inventoried to verify they could be sold. He said the guns that could be sold include 27 rifles and 45 handguns.

Some of the guns the city has had since the 1980s, Mills said.

Asked by councilors if he had a professional opinion on what the city should do with the guns, Mills said he did not. He joked his only opinion is he wants to reclaim the space the accumulated weapons are taking up in the department’s evidence locker.

Mills said he checked with other local police departments and found that none of them destroy such guns.

In Waterville, according to police Chief Joseph Massey, when police end up with forfeited firearms, the department keeps them until it is time to buy new weapons for officers. Then the department trades in those guns and gets a credit for them from the manufacturer toward the purchase of new firearms for officers.

In Portland, firearms used in a crime are always destroyed, following any necessary waiting period, according to Jessica Grondin, the city’s communications director. She said unclaimed firearms are advertised as abandoned property and, if they remain unclaimed, also are destroyed.

Grondin said when firearms are unusual or “tactically valuable,” Portland police keep the weapon for training purposes.

The issue first came up in Augusta earlier this year as councilors discussed a request from police Chief Robert Gregoire to sell items acquired by his department, other than firearms. During that discussion, councilors asked what the city does with firearms it acquires.

Bridgeo said the guns can range from “pea shooters” worth only $5 to potentially collectible guns that could be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars. He said if they are sold, the Police Department doesn’t keep the money, as the funds go back into the city’s general fund.

Some councilors suggested dedicating the proceeds from the sale of the guns to domestic violence prevention programming.

Bridgeo said the city could sell the guns and then councilors, once they know how much that raised, could decide what to do with the proceeds.

Mills said if the council were to decide to have the guns destroyed, the guns could be either melted down, cut in three places or crushed. If they are destroyed, he said, that would need to take place under police supervision.

Bridgeo said what to do with the guns is a policy matter that is “clearly the City Council’s call.”

Mayor David Rollins asked Mills to complete the inventory of the guns and bring that information back to councilors when it is ready, likely in a couple of weeks.

Bridgeo said councilors then could consider a resolution to authorize the Police Department to hold an auction with only licensed firearms dealers allowed to participate and sell all the guns together as a single lot.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

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Twitter: @kedwardskj