Pro: Measure clears up a legal gray area, could help agencies earn money

Small caliber pistols, rifles and sawed-off handles are some of the guns that have been cleared from cases and soon could be available for sale by the sheriff's office.

If he had it his way, Dale Haywood would take House Bill 1421 a step further.

Haywood bought a .22-caliber Remington single shot rifle at a pawn shop three years ago to add to his collection, and he would attend a law enforcement-led auction if it were open to average citizens, not just arms dealers.

"Why are they discriminating against the individual?" the 78-year-old dove and deer hunter asked. "I'm not a criminal."

State Rep. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, agreed to carry HB 1421 after he was approached by the Texas State Rifle Association. It told him the legislation would clear up a legal gray area, as rural law enforcement already sold seized firearms because it wasn't necessarily prohibited.

And when the Department of Public Safety estimated that selling the 1,300 guns in its custody could garner the department an extra $500,000, he figured it was a no-brainer, he said.

Comforted by the fact a judge is still in charge as far as which guns are listed and that every dollar raised from sales could count to a cash-starved county, Perry is not concerned the measure will flood the gun market.

"The last time I read the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms didn't put a limit on how many arms I can bear," he said. "If we can turn something that's bad into something that's good, then that's a good idea."

The 181 people who voted for the bill agreed this would discourage wastefulness, said Alice Tripp, the legislative director for the Texas State Rifle Association.

She suggested those offended by owning a weapon that comes with a brutal history were acting silly.

"We don't arrest guns. We arrest criminals," she said.

Haywood's wife, Carolyn, and Mike Swearingen, a pastor at the Rushing Wind Biker Church in Victoria, echoed those sentiments.

"People who would object to owning a gun (in that circumstance) would object to owning a gun, period," Haywood said.

"A gun is a mechanical device. There's nothing wrong with it; it's the person that is behind it," Swearingen said.

Swearingen, 67, earned his concealed handgun license several years ago and encourages his parishioners to do the same. The world is an unsafe place, he said.

"If we don't practice our rights, they'll just as soon disappear," he said.

Several members of local law enforcement said although implementing HB 1421 is low on the to-do list, they support its premise.

Victoria County Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor will consider selling a confiscated gun on a case-by-case basis.

"If that weapon goes and gets sold lawfully and then someone uses it in an act of crime, and they trace it back theoretically to the sheriff's office, sure, anybody with a conscience would have some concerns, but I wouldn't let it haunt me because I went through the proper procedure," he said.

The guns would be sold through a process, others said.

"They (the guns) have to go through the licensed firearms dealer, so they would re-enter the streets the same way they did the first time, which would be through legal processes," Edna Police Chief Clinton Wooldridge added.

Con: Law could be dangerous, counterproductive to police's mission