Attention brought back to APD’s gun trade-ins in the midst of March For Our Lives discussion

Allyson Waller

Customers visiting Bailey’s House of Guns in Houston have the opportunity to purchase specialty made rifles, the newest pistols and, since 2016, old firearms once used by the Austin
Police Department. 

In 2016, Bailey’s, the federally licensed firearm dealer, entered a contract, organized by the City of Austin’s Purchasing Office, permitting APD to trade in their used weapons to the dealer for newer models from the manufacturer. 

In a speech delivered to about 20,000 people at Austin’s March for Our Lives last month, State Representative Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, called attention to a 2017 investigation from the Texas Standard about state law enforcement weapons ending up in the public’s hands.

“It boggles the mind that here in our beloved city in Austin, Texas, we allow our APD to sell its used guns back into the private market,” Hinojosa told The Daily Texan. 

According to an APD spokesperson, who chose not to be named, their contract with Bailey’s allowed for APD to trade in 1,788 pistols to Bailey’s in 2016 for 1,788 newer models. The trade-in reportedly saved APD $368,328. 

The spokesperson also said the department relinquishes possession of the weapons once they are traded. 

“At the point that Bailey’s took possession of the weapons, they were no longer ours and therefore we do not track them,” APD’s spokesperson said in an email. 

Bernard Bailey, owner of Bailey’s, said he sends out multiple bids for trade-ins with police departments throughout Texas and the United States.

“I work with police departments all over the state of Texas,” Bailey said. “I hadn’t won any trade-ins in the last probably 10 years (until) Austin. I don’t care who it is; it can be a department who wants to buy 500 guns. They (either) have to trade some guns in to offset the value or (they) raise taxes (on) the general public.”

Ed Scruggs, board member of Texas Gun Sense, a non-profit which raises awareness about federal and local gun policies, said despite APD not directly selling their old weapons to the public, trading them in still poses a risk. 

“Putting a large amount of weapons back into the market at one time certainly has an impact because those weapons are sought after,” Scruggs said. 

Alison Atler, an Austin council member, said she is working with colleagues to create reforms regarding APD’s gun trade-in program.

“Council does have the authority to approve or deny contracts like the one that created the trade-in program,” Atler said in an email. Hinojosa said it is unlikely the Texas Legislature would have the political will to change the trade-in process. As a lawmaker representing Austin, Hinojosa said it hurts her credibility when guns formerly belonging to APD end up in the public’s hands. “This is something that we have total local control over, so it’s unacceptable that we are not taking advantage of that authority to do our part to keep guns off the street,” Hinojosa said. 

APD’s contract with Bailey’s is set to expire June 2019.