Law-abiding citizens have the right to own guns.
But it's foolish for police to serve as gun merchants.
Yet, that's exactly what police in Colorado Springs, Colo., are being forced to do. This unusual step is being taken for one simple reason -- to make money.
The Colorado Springs city government, like almost every city in the nation, is hurting financially. The city's vice mayor, Larry Small, suggested selling the guns police confiscate from gun dealers and other miscreants. The City Council is expected in the next few weeks to give final approval of the plan that will allow the police department to sell confiscated firearms to federally licensed gun dealers. The police have already stopped melting down the hundreds of guns they collect from crime scenes and drug houses.
The sales are projected to bring in about $10,000 a year, which is next to nothing compared to the city's $200 million annual budget.
"Every penny counts," Small said.
Yes, but to dust off another cliche -- the city is being penny wise and pound foolish. That old chestnut seems to fit here.
The few dollars Colorado Springs might make on gun sales will be overshadowed by the public outcry if one of the weapons sold ends up being used in a murder or other serious crime. If a child is killed, or even injured, the howling will be even louder.
Ironically, the law enforcement officers of the Colorado Springs Police Department understand that. They objected to the proposal but were overruled by the City Council, which voted 8-1 earlier this year to sell the confiscated guns.
"There's all kinds of ancillary issues, one of which is the politics of being in the gun-selling business," Lt. David Whitlock said. "The other is not introducing another weapon into the community."
Colorado Springs might be able to implement this policy without suffering a public backlash for several years. But if -- make that when -- one of these weapons is used in a horrific crime somewhere, there will be a price to pay.
And what if every city in America followed Colorado Springs' lead, the streets of the nation would be flooded with more weapons. That would skew the gun market and ultimately make them more accessible. This is why most police departments destroy these weapons.
Colorado Springs' proposed policy is a bad one for that city and the nation.