An Illinois sheriff’s department is selling the guns it seizes from crime scenes, but civil libertarians wonder whether it has the authority to do so — and whether gun owners whose weapons were wrongfully confiscated are victimized by the policy.
Under Sheriff Darrell Cox, the Coles County Sheriff’s Department has made a habit of selling or trading guns it acquires through searches, seizures and forfeitures, according to Illinois Watchdog.
In on such trade, the department exchanged 11 pistols, shotguns and rifles to a local arms dealer in exchange for two assault rifles, according to documents obtained by Illinois Watchdog.
Cox may have even transferred the guns from the department to himself, or vice versa. Darrell Cox Gunsmithing billed the County $1,243 for gun-related charges, according to invoices.
It’s not clear whether such trades are legal. The department’s operating procedures do not instruct the sheriff to sell weapons seized from citizens, and neither do the operating procedures from the Illinois State Police.
Monica Bond, a spokesperson for the state police department, said all weapons should be returned to their owners, turned over to the state police or destroyed.
“Once the case is adjudicated on a recovery or seizure of a firearm, a court decision will determine if the firearm will be returned to the owner, or a court order will be requested for destruction of the weapon,” she said in a statement. “Weapons that have been confiscated as a result of having been abandoned or illegally possessed may be transferred to the Department of State Police for use by the crime laboratory system, for training purposes, or for any other application as deemed appropriate by the Department.”
Illinois Watchdog attempted to question the sheriff about his department’s gun policies, but he declined to comment.
He noted only that he deemed questions about his gun dealings to be political in nature.
“This is all political,” said Deputy Kerry Whitley in a statement. “We don’t discuss politics.”
Cox, a Republican is running for an open seat in the state House of Representatives.