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MT Group Ridding Country of Unwanted Firearms

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Big Sky Connection

 

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Eric Tegethoff

June 8, 2018

HELENA, Montana - There's a gun for almost every American in the country. What happens to the guns nobody wants?

The National Center for Unwanted Firearms, a nonprofit headquartered in Helena, is attempting to answer that question and make a dent in the large number of guns in the United States. Bruce Seiler, president of the center and a former Secret Service employee, says his organization has options for these guns. 

First, they encourage people who are selling them to do so through a federally licensed dealer. If they don't want to sell, Seiler assesses them for historical value, considers if they could be repurposed for law enforcement, or destroys them. 

He says with 300 million guns in the country, we need to start getting rid of some.

"My vision is to provide a junkyard in America for firearms," says Seiler. "There's a lot of junk out there. We don't need to save every tennis racquet or old ski or old gun."

Seiler is concerned with the number of gun sales performed without background checks, estimated at about one out of every five sales. He says the center wants to prevent guns from ending up at yard sales or in newspaper ads. 

Montana also is one of 12 states where police aren't allowed to destroy guns. Seiler says that's led to police departments bulging with unused firearms.

Many of the clients coming to the center have inherited guns they don't want. Seiler says they aren't hunters and don't have a use for them.

"They were their grandfather's old shotgun, and in some cases, I've actually, if it's made before 1898, taken the firing mechanisms out and made a wall hanger for them," says Seiler.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives doesn't consider guns made before 1898 to be firearms, so they don't need to be sold through a federally licensed dealer.

Seiler feels like there's been a change culturally around guns, especially in movies and other forms of media, in recent decades that's led to an uptick in gun violence. He notes he made a living working with firearms, and so this isn't an anti-gun crusade.

"We're trying to keep them out of the wrong hands," says Seiler. "We are anti-gun violence and anti-gun crime."


 

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