Seattle Gun Buyback Nets a Missile Launcher

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Nick Adams / Reuters

Seattle Police Department Sgt. Paul Gracy seizes a missile launcher from a man who said he had purchased it outside a gun buyback program in Seattle on Jan. 26, 2013.

The Seattle Police Department had to be pretty happy with their weapons buyback event last weekend: officers recovered a total of 716 weapons from the community in exchange for gift cards of up to $200. But their haul included one very disconcerting find: an inert surface to air missile launch tube.

According to a Seattle P.D. report released earlier this week, a man standing outside the event was showing off his “recently purchased launch tube for a Stinger portable surface-to-air missile”, which “naturally, created a bit of excitement”. Officers then stepped in to speak with the man, who explained that he had purchased it from another man at the event for $100. Officers then managed to take possession of the device after making an agreement with the owner to compensate him with a gift card if they could not return it to him.

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The tube itself is designed to be disposable after launching a missile, as this one was, says the Seattle P.D. However the issue is that a weapon such as this is not — in theory at least — meant to be available to civilians “through any surplus or disposal program offered by the government.”

The Seattle police department is now working with Army officials to uncover the history of the launch tube and determine whether it was legally obtained. Meanwhile, a second missile launcher showed up over the weekend at another gun buyback program in Trenton, N.J., according to The Daily Mail, in which an anti-tank weapon was among the more than 2,600 firearms turned in.

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Aside from the Stinger missile tube, Seattle’s gun buyback program on Saturday managed to bring in 364 rifles and 348 pistols, and doled out some $68,000 worth of gift cards. Most of these weapons will be melted down at a steel plant, although the weapons that are considered to be inoperable and safe will be provided to local artists for projects, say the police.

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