CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Treasurer’s Office is working to raise money for local police departments through a one-of-a-kind auction where federally licensed firearms dealers can bid on old or used guns.
“We’re very excited to be able to help fund the police here in the state, particularly when you have so many people talking about defunding the police,” said state Treasurer Riley Moore.
The auction was held Thursday at the Treasure’s Office warehouse in Charleston. More than 600 firearm lots were available for bid and over $139,000 was raised. Last year, the auction was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which created a backlog of weapons.
Moore said they worked with police departments across the state to collect weapons that were old, seized or not being used for an extended period of time.
“This comes from evidence rooms or firearms that the police departments and communities around our state no longer use, so then we auction them off and those proceeds go directly back to those police departments,” Moore said.
Part of the state’s Unclaimed Property law allows West Virginia law enforcement agencies to turn over any old or unused firearms to the Treasurer’s Office so it can be auctioned off annually to federally licensed firearms dealers. The funds can then be returned to the agency that turns over the firearms for their use.
Ravenswood Police Chief Lance Morrison took part in the auction and said the money they’ll receive back will be used to pay for upgraded equipment within the department.
“Things such as radios, bullet proof vests, active shooter gear, weapons and ammunition that are obviously increasing in value now,” Morrison said.
The money is also used to pay for officer training programs and upgraded facilities. For example, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department used the funds from a previous auction to purchase land and build their new facility.
“I have a portable radio that we just purchased due to unclaimed property money. We purchased 10 of those. It was over $15,000. That was something that has enabled us to upgrade our technology that we wouldn’t have been able to do so without the state Treasurer’s Office,” Morrison said.
The overall effort, Morrison said, is meant to keep the community safe by having the best technology.
“You can’t put a value on a human life so, to me, it’s extremely crucial,” he said.
West Virginia is the only state in the country that allows for this auction process to benefit law enforcement agencies.