First County Executive Dan Onorato axed some 500 positions through early retirements, attrition and layoffs. Now he's got his sights set on the county's guns.
Onorato has submitted to county council a bill that would allow him to sell off surplus weapons from the county police academy armory in North Park. "There are weapons out there that are no longer of use to the county," says county Police Superintendent Charles Moffatt, saying they number in "the dozens." He hopes to solicit bids on the whole lot from federally licensed gun dealers. Rather than take cash that would go into the financially struggling county's general fund, he'd sell for credits the department could use to buy new guns and ammo. Neither Moffatt nor county police academy Inspector Wayne Gaffron could provide a list of the surplus weapons, or an estimate of their worth, by deadline.
The proposed weapons sale is just one of several Onorato proposals to sell surplus county property. He's also floated bills to auction off, on the Internet, two hydraulic cardboard compactors and a 1993 Freightliner truck with a posthole digger and drilling attachment. The sales aren't a "major component" of the county's belt-tightening, says Onorato spokeswoman Ashley Henry, "although every little bit helps."
Council isn't likely to take up any of the fire-sale proposals until late August. Derwin Rushing, past president of the nonprofit Goods for Guns of Allegheny County, hopes they'll ensure the guns go to "responsible people. That's all we can hope for." Goods for Guns has worked with the county Health Department and the Pittsburgh Police for 10 years to trade thousands of guns for gift certificates redeemable at local stores. The guns were disabled, and many were used in a gun totem pole in Providence, R.I. Goods for Guns has also supported the distribution of trigger locks to people who choose to own guns, says Rushing. "It would be very helpful if [the county] would give a gunlock with [every] weapon," Rushing says.
Moffatt says the licensed dealers would be able to resell the guns, but only to "a person ... authorized to buy a weapon." Might some of those weapons end up in the wrong hands, and become involved in crimes his officers will have to handle?
"I would hope not," Moffatt says.