Some Chapel Hill residents are expressing a desire to turn their firearms over to police but are running into legal issues.
Gun violence and firearms in general have been in the public spotlight over the last few weeks following the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day where 17 people were killed.
The reaction from some residents has been to turn their firearms in to police in hopes they would then be destroyed. A petition is scheduled to go before the Chapel Hill Town Council on Wednesday night asking for a gun buyback program. But North Carolina law does not currently allow for the destruction of those firearms, and Chapel Hill elected officials are asking state representatives for help changing that.
The Town Council hosted legislators from Orange and Durham counties at a legislative breakfast last week.
“They don’t want to have a gun in the house anymore,” Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said at the meeting. “They don’t want to be involved in this gun issue, and they want to step away.”
Under current law, officials said at the meeting, a firearm turned in to police can only be destroyed if it does not have a legible, unique identification number or is unsafe. Otherwise, the town must maintain the firearm for training or transfer it to a museum or historical society or sell, trade or exchange it with a federally licensed firearm dealer or sell it via public auction.
Chapel Hill Police chief Chris Blue said that more than 30 firearms had also been stolen over the last year in Chapel Hill and that some of those may have otherwise been turned in to police, if the department was allowed to dispose of the weapon.
“Many of those weapons, people keep in their sock drawer or under the bed because they don’t have any other way to get rid of them,” Blue said.
Local House Representative Verla Insko said that it was an individual liberty issue and that if a resident wanted to have a gun destroyed, that should be their option.
“If I own a gun,” Insko said, “I ought to be able to say what happens to it.”
Insko said one possibility would be to add a fourth option to state law allowing, at the discretion of the gun owner, that the firearm be destroyed.
It is unclear if there will be any movement on the proposal when lawmakers return to Raleigh for the short legislative session in May.