Steve Chapman

Not that it really matters. If a Chicagoan wants to buy a firearm, new or used, and is legally entitled to do so, he or she can easily find a local store that will be happy to make the sale.

Adam Collins, a spokesman for the police department, says it would be out of the question to resell the guns. "Any small financial gain would not justify being part of putting more firearms out on the streets," he told me.

Mark Iris, a Northwestern University political scientist who served as executive director of the Chicago Police Board, fears that selling guns instead of destroying them would undermine the Chicago Police Department's efforts to get illegal guns off the streets. "By selling guns instead of scrapping them, you send a mixed message, and that could result in a non-economic price of decreased officer attention to this issue," he says.

But does it really matter if the gun a gang member uses against an enemy was once seized by the Chicago police rather than being fresh off the assembly line? Cops, of all people, should be able to keep in mind the difference between a gun in the hands of a criminal and the same gun in the hands of a law-abiding person. They don't need to flatten stolen vehicles to retain their vigilance against car theft.

In the end, the policy is about as effective as trying to prevent drownings by bailing out Lake Michigan with a coffee mug. But it's a lot more expensive.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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