Police Accept Unwanted Guns

Published 3:21 pm Thursday, July 9, 2015

PRINCE EDWARD — Have you ever wondered where firearms turned over to law enforcement wind up?

In many cases, they’re cut up, destroyed, prohibited from ever again fulfilling their intended purpose.

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Although it’s a rare occurrence, the sheriff’s department does have a few turned over to the department voluntarily. They’ll take those, but the donor is also asked to sign a destruction order.

The sheriff’s department, however, receives “very, very, very, very few,” Prince Edward County Maj. David Wilmoth said. “I can’t think of when.”

So what would someone who has concerns with having small children and a gun in the same house do? Call the sheriff’s department first; don’t just take it in. Only law enforcement officials can take a firearm inside the courthouse. One wouldn’t want to break the law trying to do a good thing.

On occasion, however, the department will destroy a found gun. They’ll check it several times to make sure it hasn’t been stolen, Wilmoth said, keep it for a period, then get a destruction order from a judge.  That happens a couple of times a year, he said.

They do get calls with reports of a lost gun, Wilmoth said, but no one wants to claim the ones they find.

As for firearms seized as part of a criminal investigation, they are also eventually destroyed following convictions and final disposition of cases in the court system. Wilmoth reports that the judge and commonwealth’s attorney must first sign off on the weapon’s destruction. When the court order is done, the weapon is destroyed in front of a witness. Verifying records are kept in the sheriff’s department and in the appropriate clerk’s office.

Firearms, of course, can be returned to the owner if an individual is exonerated through the legal process.

“We return as much property as we’re allowed to return,” Wilmoth said.


The Farmville Police Department may also accept unwanted firearms. Police Chief Curtis Davis said that it doesn’t happen often but that “depending on the situation and the circumstances … we would certainly help someone if they’re trying to — for safety purposes trying to get rid of a gun … because they don’t want it or they don’t feel safe with it or they found it, something along those lines… .”

Those weapons are also checked, to ensure they aren’t stolen or there’s no known crimes behind them. The individual would have to sign a waiver and the police department would also document the reason for turning over the weapon. It, too, would be destroyed.

Davis said it would be better for those seeking to turn over a weapon to call in advance and explain the reason they wish to have the weapon taken and destroyed and make arrangements to have it delivered or have the police department pick it up.

As for destroying seized firearms involved in a court case, Davis said it would depend on a number of factors. One is disposition of the court case and what the judge deems should happen to the piece of evidence. A court order would be needed to destroy the weapon.

(Those who live in Prince Edward and want to have a firearm destroyed, call the sheriff’s office first at 434-392-8101. In town, contact dispatchers at 434-392-3332.)