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State treasurer’s firearms auction raises record total

CHARLESTON — State Treasurer Riley Moore announced his Office’s annual unclaimed property firearms auction, conducted Thursday in Charleston, brought in a record amount of bids, raising nearly $140,000 to benefit state and local law enforcement agencies.

“This auction allows our Office to partner with law enforcement agencies around the state to take outdated or unused firearms sitting in their storage rooms and turn that into revenue to buy new equipment or pay for officer training programs,” Treasurer Moore said. “While other people are talking about defunding police, we’re funding them.”

The Treasurer’s Office has been conducting the auctions since 2014, but was unable to host one last year due to the pandemic. That meant this year’s event had a record amount of inventory — more than 500 firearms lots for sale. As a result, the Office was able to raise a total of $139,790 during Thursday’s auction.

Under West Virginia’s Unclaimed Property Code (Chapter 36, Article 8A), state and local law enforcement agencies are allowed to turn over any unclaimed, seized or outdated firearms into their possession to the State Treasurer’s Office for auction. The proceeds can then be returned to the submitting agency for use.

These include weapons that are older and no longer used by a department, or that have been seized during the commission of a crime and sitting in evidence rooms for an extended amount of time following the disposition of a case. They can also include weapons taken from individuals who are not legally allowed to own firearms.

Once law enforcement certifies they cannot find a lawful owner of the firearms, they can be turned over to the Treasurer’s Office for auction.

“While some states allow individual law enforcement agencies to sell outdated firearms, West Virginia is the only state that has an organized statewide auction process like this,” Treasurer Moore said. “Having a statewide process through our Office allows us to attract large numbers of bidders, which in turn increases how much money we can raise for these agencies.”

More than 60 federally licensed firearms dealers attended Thursday’s auction. In order to participate, bidders must be a valid, licensed federal firearms dealer — the event is not open to the general public.

Law enforcement agencies that benefited from the event included sheriff’s departments from Cabell, Jackson, Kanawha, Marion and Wyoming counties; the Lewisburg, Montgomery, New Martinsville, Nitro, Parkersburg and South Charleston city police departments; the Marlinton, Moorefield, Parkersburg, Union and Weston State Police detachments; and Division of Natural Resources detachments in Farmington and Romney.

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