APD’s sale of retired police guns could be restricted by council


After a controversial 2016 trade deal, the Austin City Council will likely require the Austin Police Department to only sell older guns to active APD officers. Supporters say anything else gives no guarantee old police weapons won’t wind up in the hands of criminals.

In 2016, APD traded more than 1,000 firearms with Bailey’s House of Guns in Houston. The agency did it to save money when they switched from the .40 caliber to the 9 mm. The deal was approved by city council in their budget documents. APD received $206 for each retired weapon and with that discount paid Bailey’s House of Guns $94 for each new gun. 

The item was recommended by the city’s Public Safety Commission. With millions of guns already on the market in Texas, Texas State University professor and member of the Public Safety Commission, Dr. Kim Rossmo, was skeptical that stopping the sales will matter.

“If I can’t buy an APD resold gun in Houston, there’s going to be 5,000 other guns I can buy in the same store. While I see the symbolic benefits of this, I don’t see this having any real impact on the actual crime rate,” said Rossmo.

Council Member Alison Alter, District 10, spearheaded this would-be ordinance after the 2016 swap.

“It’s not going to solve everything, but one of the challenges we have in the gun control realm as the city is we don’t control the levers,” said Alter. “What we’ve been trying to work on is figuring out what are those things we do have in our control.” 

Her proposal would only allow APD guns to be sold to active APD officers. The recommendation “prevents any city department to enter into a contract for the sale or trade-in of any City-owned weapons of firearms to licensed gun dealers.” It also recommends that any current contract be terminated. 

“We have to take action at the local level and demonstrate that we’re not going to allow this to continue,” said Alter.

The council could tweak the ordinance—like allowing other certified officers to buy APD guns—but the details will be finalized at Thursday’s city council meeting.

Nearly two dozen other Texas law enforcement agencies sell its guns. A report from the Texas Standard and Reveal found the list includes other large cities like Dallas and San Antonio. In addition, state agencies like the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission all sell some used weapons.

Police have the option to sell their retired guns because of a 2003 law. A decade later in 2013, the Texas Legislature let law enforcement start selling some confiscated weapons. However, several large cities, including Austin, do not sell guns they seize from criminals.

Editor’s Note: UTPD said they do not sell their used weapons. That line has been removed from the story.

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