Audit

How many guns does the state own?

In the comedy of errors that is Charleston bureaucracy, not much surprises these days. But a legislative audit released last week should raise some eyebrows.

It seems not only does the state have a difficult time keeping track of the number of vehicles it owns, it also finds it impossible to keep track of the number of guns it owns and has distributed.

There are still 58 agencies or entities not required by law to follow state purchasing rules, and therefore not required to report their inventory to the wvOasis system. Those agencies or entities have an unknown number of non-inventoried firearms.

“Missing firearms or deficient inventory and physical controls over state-owned firearms result in a substantial risk of harm to the public safety and liability to the state of West Virginia,” the audit says.

By the way, there are nearly 5,000 guns in the hands of state agencies or entities that have been accounted for in the wvOasis system. That leaves an “unquantified number of firearms” out there.

Authors of the legislative audit suggest the state should adopt standards similar to those used by the U.S. military or law enforcement agencies to keep track of its guns.

“Requiring all state agencies to account for, and properly inventory their firearms helps reduce potential for loss, misuse or theft,” according to the audit. “The additional liability to the state and the citizens of West Virginia potentially caused by an unaccounted for firearm is far too great to not follow the established best practice.”

Getting this problem corrected needs to be a priority in Charleston. Officials need to be able to report how many firearms the state has bought and distributed — and how many can be accounted for now. Let us all hope the numbers are reasonably close to reconciling. Vehicles that cannot be found are worrisome enough — but at least they are not (most of the time) lethal weapons.

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