Luzerne County selling unclaimed guns and other weapons

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - | December 15th, 2015 5:37 pm

By Jennifer Learn-Andes


The Luzerne County government is selling an extensive inventory of weapons seized in old protection-from-abuse cases: 125 rifles and shotguns, 50 handguns, 20 BB and pellet guns, 15 bows and 120 knives and other tools.

The sale, which has been in the works for more than a year, will generate revenue for the cash-strapped county, free up storage space and reduce liability, said county Sheriff Brian Szumski.

Szumski initially opposed the sale of weapons, worrying the county could be sued if a weapon was auctioned and then involved in a crime.

However, he supports the approach designed by county Chief Solicitor C. David Pedri because the county will be selling the entire inventory to a licensed firearm dealer, who will then assume responsible for completing required checks on prospective buyers and completing sales.

Purchasers must agree that the county has no liability for any injuries or property damage resulting from use of the sold property.

The weapons have been piling up in the sheriff’s office through several administrations dating back to the early 1990s, Szumski said.

A PFA order, whether temporary or permanent, typically mandates the defendants named in the restraining order must surrender all weapons they own and in their possession.

If the restraining order is withdrawn, declined or expired, the defendant can petition the court to retrieve the weapons.

Weapons are considered abandoned if they have gone unclaimed for three years after a PFA lapses, though the county still needed clearance from a judge before it could sell or destroy them.

A court hearing on the county’s request to sell the weapons was held in November 2014, and only six citizens claimed their weapons.

Szumski said he did not include projected revenue from the sale in the county’s 2016 budget because he has no idea how much money to expect. He hasn’t researched the value of each item and has said most of the guns are for hunting and are “not really fancy.”

County officials may opt to deposit the revenue into the reserve to help chip away at the deficit.

Interested dealers must submit proposals by Jan. 22, according to the county’s request, which is posted under the procurement section of the county website,

The county won’t piecemeal the inventory and is selling all items as is, with no guarantee on the condition or safety of any items.

A pre-proposal inspection of the inventory will be held in the sheriff’s office on Jan. 9, which is the only opportunity to review and inspect the property.

Prospective purchasers who plan to attend must provide copies of their Pennsylvania and federal firearm dealer licenses. Any employees or representatives attending the Jan. 9 inspection must submit personal information by Dec. 30 to the sheriff’s office, which will complete background checks. Those who fail to submit this information or pass background checks won’t be admitted.

The general public also will have an opportunity to view — not touch — the inventory from 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Jan. 9 at the sheriff’s office in the courthouse if interested citizens submit personal information by Dec. 30 and pass background checks.

The personal information form is attached to the public request.

Szumski said some items that were confiscated through past restraining orders can’t be legally sold and must be destroyed, such as stun guns and illegal fireworks.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.