When federal law enforcement agencies retire their service guns, they’re legally required to destroy the weapons. There’s no similar mandate for state and local agencies, so decisions about what to do with old guns are left up to state and local leaders, and police chiefs, who’ve taken a variety of stances. Sometimes, they choose to resell their used guns — and sometimes, those guns wind up in the hands of criminals thousands of miles away.

In 2019, a Kentucky State Police pistol sold to a retiring detective ended up in Buffalo, New York, where federal agents executing a search warrant on a murder suspect found the gun in a backpack alongside heroin and a bulletproof vest. In 2020, San Antonio police recovered a weapon resold by the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office in Modesto, California, in connection with the shooting of a 15-year-old. The same agency resold the Glock pistol that was used to kill Cameron Brown, a 19-year-old who loved fishing with his grandfather, in Indianapolis in 2021.

The Trace, in partnership with CBS News and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, reviewed records from hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the United States and found that many had routinely resold or traded in their used duty weapons. Some of the guns were later involved in shootings, domestic violence incidents, and other violent crimes. Many police departments resold their weapons while holding buyback events, which they say are important to pull guns off the street; in some cases, departments added more guns to the marketplace than they removed

“One more gun on the street actually changed our lives forever,” said Brown’s grandmother, Maria Leslie, a pastor. Brown’s mother added: “I’m losing trust in the people who’re supposed to protect and serve us.”

From The Trace

The latest from our team.

Shot by a Civilian Wielding a Police Gun

More than 52,000 police guns have been involved in crimes since 2006. Many of those weapons were resold by law enforcement agencies sworn to protect the public.

The Mothers Holding Onto the Likenesses of Children Lost to Gun Violence

Five Chicago moms talk about how life-size cardboard cutouts have allowed them to continue motherhood — and create new memories — after losing a child.

How a SCOTUS Decision Led to an Unprecedented Gun Sales Boom

In Episode 5 of “Long Shadow: In Guns We Trust,” host Garrett Graff speaks with the architect of the seismic District of Columbia v. Heller case about his search for the perfect plaintiff.

Biden Called on States to Create Violence Prevention Offices. Maryland Answered.

The state’s new centralized office is an experiment that approaches gun violence reduction through a public health lens.

The Supreme Court’s Ghost Gun Case Could Jeopardize Other Firearm Regulations

Legal experts say the ruling could expand Second Amendment protections to the gun industry, imperiling a host of laws governing the manufacture and sale of firearms.

The Trace Adds Two Journalists to Growing Team

Alma Beauvais and Ava Sasani will help with news gathering and the Gun Violence Data Hub.

What to Know This Week

Two decades ago, federal and local law enforcement routinely identified the source of crime guns to anyone who inquired. But in 2003, Congress approved the so-called Tiahrt Amendments, which bar the ATF from releasing trace data to anyone other than a law enforcement agency or prosecutor — and shield stores that have sold guns used in crimes from public scrutiny. A new investigation into the origin of a gun used in the 2021 killing of a Chicago police officer highlights the challenges these rules present for researchers and cities trying to tamp down firearm trafficking. [ProPublica]

Planning commissioners in Half Moon Bay, California, approved a new apartment building for low-income, older farm workers, following a protracted debate that took on new urgency after a mass shooting at two nearby mushroom farms last year, when the workers’ poor living conditions were revealed. The project was approved after Governor Gavin Newsom threatened legal action over the delay; it now goes to the City Council. [KQED

When the National Rifle Association conceived the law known as “stand your ground,” the intention was to protect from prosecution those who shoot others in self-defense. In the weeks since a Florida sheriff’s deputy shot and killed 23-year-old Roger Fortson — a young Black senior airman who was holding a downturned gun he legally possessed when he answered his front door door and the officer opened fire — a debate about race, gun laws, and who is afforded deference in claims of self-defense has been playing out across the state. [Associated Press

The Type 07 Federal Firearms License is a basic permit granted by the ATF to manufacture firearms. In 2010, agency data shows, the number of Type 07 licenses began to dramatically increase — yet relatively few reported producing any guns. These licenses can be used to bypass many sale and transfer laws, like background checks, that private citizens are subject to, and allow holders to purchase discounted guns from wholesalers across state lines and in unlimited quantities. [Violence Policy Center

New York Mayor Eric Adams wants to test Evolv’s artificial intelligence-powered gun-detection technology in the city’s subway system, internal emails show, despite the company saying it’s not designed for that environment. The controversial tech, which is under investigation by federal regulators, still found a way in. [WIRED]

In Memoriam

Ondria Glaze, 36, seemed born to be a teacher, her aunt told The Philadelphia Inquirer — she was a force for positivity, and a natural caretaker who often joked that the students at Philadelphia’s Olney High School were her children. Glaze was shot and killed in her home earlier this month. She was a quintessential Philadelphian, loved ones said: She grew up going to local public schools, and friends knew not to call her when the Eagles were on the field. Glaze, who headed up Olney’s special education department, was known for going out of her way for students. She got to know their families, organized Thanksgiving food events, and even bought headphones for a student who struggled with classroom noise. The kids loved Glaze for it, and seemingly everyone she came across loved her, too. “She was a person that I could always look up to,” an Olney student said. “She just had a radiance to her.”

We Recommend

After a Borderland Shootout, a 100-Year-Old Battle for the Truth: “Whose story is remembered and celebrated when it comes to the ugly chapters of Texas history?” [The Washington Post]

Pull Quote

“Firearms are associated with a number of adverse health effects. Wouldn’t we like to know where that hazard is coming from?”

— Dr. Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California-Davis, on how the Tiahrt Amendments have inhibited the study of illicit gun markets, to ProPublica