West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore stopped by the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office Thursday afternoon to present the department with an unclaimed property check that came from a gun auction held by Moore’s office.
According to the state’s Unclaimed Property Code, every year law enforcement agencies are able to turn over unclaimed, seized, or outdated firearms in their possession to the Treasurer’s Office for auction.
The weapons include those that are older or no longer used by the department, or that have been legally seized by law enforcement and stored in evidence rooms for an extended period of time.
Sheriff Perry Palmer said there are other ways to dispose of unusable weapons, but turning them over to the state “makes it easy for us because they have better ways and means to auction off the firearms.”
The State Treasurer’s Office held its 10th unclaimed property firearms auction Sept. 21. A record-high number of law enforcement agencies — a total of 19 police departments, sheriff’s offices and state police detachments — turned over property for the auction that raised nearly $90,000.
From the sale of the weapons it turned over, the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department received $8,802 that Palmer said will go back into the department’s general fund to be used for various things like equipment and training.
“We’ve now been able to increase, year after year, the number of different law enforcement agencies around the state that are participating in this, and we have had some record-breaking years around this — sometimes raising $150,000 for different agencies around the state,” Moore said.
“This year we had more law enforcement agencies than anytime previously participate in this, which is wonderful because these firearms would generally just be destroyed if they didn’t go through this auction process that we do.”
In March, Moore’s office held an auction that raised a total of $141,000 to benefit participating agencies. Last year’s auction raised nearly $110,000 for law enforcement.
The auctions are not open to the general public. Only pre-registered federal firearms license holders are able to attend and bid on the guns, which Moore says is a win-win for all parties.
“The money is able to be returned to the law enforcement agency and then those firearms are bought generally by gun shops that then refurbish them and resell them, so there’s no money lost there and everybody kind of wins,” he said. “It’s been a good event for all the different law enforcement agencies around the state.”
West Virginia is the only state treasurer’s office in the country that allows for this auction process to benefit law enforcement agencies, according to Mike Comer, deputy treasurer of records and security.
“There’s a lot of ways to try to help fund the police and this is one of the ways that we’ve been able to do that,” Moore said. “We’re proud to be able to help our police forces around the state of West Virginia to protect and serve the communities they work in.”