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Unclaimed guns from Augusta's Operation Smoke Screen have a long journey to destruction

Sunday, March 11, 2012 3:23 PM
Last updated Tuesday, March 13, 2012 9:57 AM
  • Follow Crime & courts

It’s an action movie junkie’s dream: explosions, cars being crushed, melting metal and giant wheels of destruction. For the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, it’s called getting rid of illegal weapons.

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Once a case is closed and the gun is ready to be destroyed, it will either be sent alone or with other weapons.  File/Staff
File/Staff
Once a case is closed and the gun is ready to be destroyed, it will either be sent alone or with other weapons.


In large undercover operations like Operation Smoke Screen, in which a significant number of guns is involved, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office often teams up with ATF.

After the operation is concluded, ATF is responsible for the guns. Depending on the number of weapons that cannot be traced back to a legitimate owner, the guns are either crushed, melted or chopped, said Richard Coes, the public information officer for ATF Atlanta.

It is a very bureaucratic and lengthy process, said Special Agent in Charge Scott Sweetow. Each gun is connected to its individual case and cannot be destroyed until the case is closed because the weapon might be needed for evidence.

Once a case is closed and the gun is ready to be destroyed, it will either be sent alone or with other weapons.

If fewer than 40 guns are coming out of Augusta, they are taken to Savannah, Ga., where they are cut up and recycled. The cuts are precise: through the receiver, action and any section that could still be used if not fully destroyed, Coes said.

If there are more than 50 guns to destroy, — as in 2007’s Operation Augusta Ink, which yielded about 400 — the weapons are shipped to Atlanta, put inside a wrecked vehicle and crushed, then recycled.

Sweetow remembered an operation in Los Angeles, where he used to work, involving the destruction of 2,000 AK-47’s.

“There was truck after truck after truck full of guns,” he said.

They ended up taking them to a giant compactor with a wheel that crushed them all for recycling. They had to be carefully monitored to make sure none were still usable.

“It is always a very formulaic and heavily monitored process,” he said.

ATF Atlanta used to have a contract with the state fire marshal to handle the bullets, Coes said. The fire marshal destroy them in an explosion.

Now, if there are fewer than 20 bullets, they are brought to ATF offices and destroyed by hand. Agents separate the bullets from their casings and throw them away.

“We are destroying bullets in the office pretty often,” he said.

Otherwise, they collect as much ammunition as they can and send it to a private company that burns it, Coes said.

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Patty-P
3520
Points
Patty-P 03/11/12 - 04:28 pm
1
0
They need to let me come get

They need to let me come get my AK....

seenitB4
97601
Points
seenitB4 03/12/12 - 04:12 am
0
0
I don't understand why the

I don't understand why the police can't buy these at a reduced price....even small guns for personal use....

bdouglas
5777
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bdouglas 03/12/12 - 07:37 am
0
0
@seenit: I would think that

@seenit: I would think that if they can't trace the gun back to the original owner, as it says they attempt to do, that the firearm likely has the serial number removed or otherwise altered, which would prevent it from being sold to anyone, even police.

DeEvolutionStartsNow
0
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DeEvolutionStartsNow 03/12/12 - 10:24 am
0
0
The last Sentence of
Unpublished

The last Sentence of Paragraph 5 is a run on and "bullets from their casings and throws them away" Throws? I lol at how difficult this is to read for a grammer nut.

jross1981
69
Points
jross1981 03/12/12 - 10:25 am
0
0
My Guns were stolen in May.

My Guns were stolen in May. They need to let people try to identify them. I'd hate to think that the rifle that my Grandfather owned is going to end up in a compacted car.

LLArms
470
Points
LLArms 03/12/12 - 10:32 am
0
0
As long as the weapons have

As long as the weapons have not been rendered a class III item they should auction them off to the public.

In a time when all government entities are in need to cash flow, this is a vastly superior idea then making $50 recycling them. or at the very least auction off everything but the lower receivers so people learning to gunsmith can get the old/worn out stuff to practice on.

Confiscated guns are not like drugs. They are simply tools. How silly would it sound to recycle 1000 shovels/hammers that were stolen and then recovered?

Frank I
1204
Points
Frank I 03/12/12 - 12:30 pm
0
0
does this read incorrectly to

does this read incorrectly to anyone else? "The fire marshal destroy them in an explosion."

urright
465
Points
urright 03/12/12 - 02:30 pm
0
0
You would think a "grammer

You would think a "grammer nut" could spell grammar.
Frank--I reread that sentence more than once and agree with you. Put an "s" on "marshal" or "destroy" and you'd be okay.

bdouglas
5777
Points
bdouglas 03/13/12 - 07:41 am
0
0
@urright: Alas, spelling and

@urright: Alas, spelling and "grammer" are two different things. ha

Frank I
1204
Points
Frank I 03/13/12 - 03:50 pm
0
0
bdouglas: You can not have

bdouglas: You can not have correct grammar without correct spelling. :)

miduv81
0
Points
miduv81 03/14/12 - 12:59 pm
0
0
People that collect firearms

People that collect firearms should always take a picture of the serial numbers and another of the whole firearm (side by side). Not only for insurance purposes, but cases like this when there stolen. If not your just wasting your time trying to get your stolen weapon back, because YOU WILL NEED PROOF. On the other hand most of the time when guns are stolen they file down the serial numbers, so you cannot match them anyways, so lock em up with a 10,000lb safe.

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