In some jurisdictions, there are gun buyback programs in which police purchase weapons to destroy them and get them off the street. But this week, a North Carolina law takes effect that blocks police from destroying confiscated or unclaimed firearms.
In the polarized post-Sandy Hook political era -- with some liberal states tightening gun laws and conservative legislatures moving aggressively to loosen restrictions -- North Carolina's gun destruction policy is among the most unusual.
The "save the gun" law breezed through votes in the spring by North Carolina's Republican-controlled Legislature, at the urging of the National Rifle Association, as the state moved to strengthen gun rights.
Beginning in October, a separate law will allow concealed-carry owners to take guns into bars and restaurants, as long as they don't drink, or leave their guns in their vehicles at schools and universities.
The save-the-gun law requires that law enforcement agencies donate confiscated guns, keep them or sell them to licensed gun dealers, provided that the weapons aren't damaged or missing serial numbers.
In such cases, guns can be destroyed.
Some North Carolina law enforcement agencies had conducted gun buyback programs before the law went into effect Sunday. An effort in Wilmington last week netted 23 rifles and shotguns and 44 handguns, police said. The buyback, held in honor of two local victims of gun violence, ran out of money in 30 minutes.
In the past, North Carolina law enforcement agencies needed a judge's permission to sell or destroy weapons. The new statute essentially limits the options of police and strips judges of power to decide how to deal with unclaimed guns -- provisions supported by the NRA.
"It is critical for you to contact your state Representative TODAY and urge her or him to oppose any efforts to amend H 714 in a way that will allow any discretion by judges or law enforcement to destroy lawful functioning firearms," said one alert from the NRA's legislative division as the bill was being debated.
According to a Bloomberg News report, a similar gun bill was passed in Kentucky in 1998 and has since been endorsed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, an influential conservative group responsible for replicating such law in legislatures across the nation.