UPDATE: Sheriff’s gun buy-back raises questions


Manatee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Dave Bristow says the firearms expert who will determine whether the buy-back guns qualify as “assault weapons” is a range master, a certified firearms instructor and an expert witness on firearms. He declined to be interviewed.

The sheriff’s office plans to use money from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund (seized drug money) to buy back the firearms. Afterward, Bristow said, the weapons will be destroyed.

The last homicide involving a military-style firearm occurred in 2007, Bristow said.


How do you define an assault weapon?

If you live in Manatee County you might be surprised.

Most likely that pistol you rely on for home defense is considered an assault weapon.

The issue came up yesterday when Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube announced, through his spokesman Dave Bristow, that the agency will be hosting a gun buy-back Saturday.

I’ve never really understood the efficacy of gun buy-backs – or as many call them “cash for clunkers.”

The last line of the sheriff’s press release caught my attention:

The gun buyback is a safe, no questions asked opportunity to dispose of any working firearm in return for cash.  $50 will be paid out for handguns, $100 dollars for rifles and shotguns and $150 for assault type weapons.

It’s fair to say there is a bit of heated debate over just the definition of an assault weapon.

Most firearms experts believe the term only applies to select-fire weapons that chamber an intermediate-size cartridge, like an M-16, M4 or AK-47. I tend to agree.

Some politicians and firearm opponents use the term to describe any semi-automatic firearm with a debatable number of features: telescoping or folding stocks, pistol grips, bayonet mounts, flash suppressors, detachable magazines or more. The same group uses the definition for pistols with magazines that insert outside the pistol grip, threaded barrels and barrel shrouds, such as the Tec-9.

Since the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is going to shell out more hard-earned taxpayer dollars for “assault type weapons,” I asked their spokesman Dave Bristow what criteria they use to determine what qualifies as an “assault-type weapon.”

“We’ll have our gun expert who works in training make the final call, but the weapon would have to (sic) magazine fed capable of at last 10 rounds,” Bristow said in an email.

By that definition, most of my handguns qualify as “assault type weapons” in Manatee County, as does my Ruger 10-22, my wife’s M-1 Carbine, and many more.

“So my Glock is an assault type weapon?” I asked Bristow. He did not reply.

I also asked what will happen to the “assault type weapons” after they are bought back for $150. Who gets them? With AKs currently selling for around $1,000 and ARs fetching a minimum of $1,500 – if you can find them – I think it’s a fair question.

“Have ‘assault type weapons’ been used in any Manatee County Homicides in the past five years? If so, can you please provide the victim’s name,” I asked the sheriff’s spokesman.

Around 10 p.m. last night, Bristow said he would “get with a couple of people in the morning and forward you the info.”

When he updates me, I’ll update this story.



About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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