Police destroy guns used to commit crime in W.Va.

October 16, 1998

By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

photos: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The 130 handguns, assault-style rifles and shotguns piled up in Rick Kackley's shop contributed their fair share of trouble in the form of armed robberies, murders and assaults.

But their lives came to an end Thursday as Kackley lined them up one by one and cut them in half with a welding torch.

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State and local officials organized the event to emphasize a new law that allows authorities to destroy guns used in crime.


In the past, police agencies could use the guns for training. If the agencies did not want them, about the only other way to dispose of them was to sell them, state officials said.

But police were concerned that the guns were ending up in the wrong hands again.

Following an act of the Legislature last year, the state treasurer's office, which is responsible for unclaimed weapons, is now allowed to destroy guns used in crime.

State Treasurer John D. Perdue, John Vanorsdale, chief deputy of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office, and other officials gathered Thursday at Rick's Welding and Crane Service along Arden Road to watch Kackley destroy the weapons.

The weapons included sawed-off shotguns, a "mini 14" assault-style rifle and other semiautomatic weapons and assorted handguns.

Destroying gunsKackley sheared barrels off the guns and pitched the parts into a trash bin.

The 130 guns were collected by city, state and county law enforcement agencies in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties over the last four months, said Richard Fisher, an investigator with the state treasurer's office.

After paperwork on confiscated weapons was processed through the treasurer's office, the guns usually were sold at an auction in the county in which they were confiscated, said Vanorsdale.

It would be wrong to assume that all the guns sold in the auctions ended up on the streets again, officials said. But when someone would buy a large number of guns at one time, police got suspicious, said Vanorsdale.

The buyers then could sell them to anyone they wanted, said Vanorsdale.

"As long as you weren't a convicted felon, we couldn't stop you from buying them," said Vanorsdale.

Watching the guns come under the wrath of Kackley's welder made Vanorsdale feel better.

The new law may not stop people from getting weapons, "but it will make it harder," said Vanorsdale.

Perdue said he plans to travel to several areas of the state to oversee the destruction of guns. Officials have destroyed weapons in Charleston and Huntington, W.Va., and have discarded about 1,200 so far, Perdue said.

Officials said it's hard to say whether confiscation of guns is up or down in the Eastern Panhandle.

"It's just an ebb and flow. I know I turned over more than normal last time," said Sgt. S.E. Paugh, commander of the West Virginia State Police detachment in Jefferson County.

Paugh said he turned in 18 guns in June that his officers confiscated.

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