Stopping Illegally Funded Gun Buy-Backs

In the video below Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo and Director of Public Safety Fred Harran of Bensalem, PA state that their two day gun buy-back of February 6 and 16 was the first in the nation financed with federal funds seized from drug dealers. 

They refer to the fact that the shared funds must be used for law enforcement purposes and that they are the first jurisdiction to get approval to use such funds for a gun buy-back. Mr. Harran mentions a flier that was sent out to law enforcement agencies across the country informing them that federal shared funds are now available to them for gun buy-backs. A little Internet searching found the February 1, 2013 edition of the Equitable Sharing Wire, the Equitable Sharing Program’s newsletter published by the US Department of Justice. The Equitable Sharing Program is run by the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section.
The article “Gun Buy-Back Programs” outlines how this is to be done. The relevant part is the one sentence third paragraph, “If your agency uses equitably shared funds to run a gun buy-back program, the funds used should be reported on Line C, Informant and Buy Money, of the Equitable Sharing Agreement and Certification form.” However, when one hovers their cursor over the boxes on Line C to report expenditures a bubble appears that reads in part “Miscellaneous petty cash purchases should not be reported in this category. Justice Guide VIII.A.1.a”. Buying unwanted guns from the public would certainly seem to be “Miscellaneous petty cash purchases”.

The above referenced Justice Guide is the “Guide to Equitable Sharing for State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies”. It gives us further guidance. Section VIII.A.1.a (page 16) reads:

Law enforcement investigations—the support of investigations and operations that may result in furthering the law enforcement goals and mission, e.g., payment of overtime for officers and investigators; payments to informants; “buy,” “flash,” or reward money; and the purchase of evidence.

On the same page we read “Except as noted in this Guide, equitably shared funds shall be used by law enforcement agencies for law enforcement purposes only.” Gun buy-backs enforce no laws nor do they involve payments to informants, rewards, or the purchase of evidence.

The Guide goes on to list other permissible, pre-approved uses for equitably shared funds. Gun buy-backs aren’t on the list.

The bottom line here is that Bensalem is, in this layman’s opinion, improperly using these funds. I would also bring up the question of whether state funded gun buy-backs are being illegally financed. A quick search at the legal website FindLaw found no rulings by the courts on this issue. Hopefully, the attorneys employed by gun rights groups will follow up on the research presented here and can end the practice.

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