State treasurer’s office holds large auction for unclaimed guns

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — One of the largest unclaimed property firearms auctions was held Thursday in a secure warehouse in Kanawha City. Hosted by the State Treasurer Riley Moore’s Office, the event helps to raise funds for around fifteen law enforcement agencies across the state.

However, the only people the treasury is mandated to sell them to are licensed firearms dealers, and those dealers came from 11 different states as far as Arizona to participate in Thursday’s auction.

Out of the 600 firearms that were for sale at the auction, some have been in the agencies’ possession for 20 years and have been able to accumulate significant value. Deputy Treasurer over Records and Security for the state treasurer’s office, Mike Comer says these live auction events bring an opportunity for law enforcement officers to apply for net proceeds through the transaction of the guns, adding that it’s extra beneficial to do now since the job comes with a lot more expenses.

“So, those law enforcement agencies applying for those net proceeds can secure funds to buy safety equipment for their officers or training, and we all know, it’s far more expensive to equip a law enforcement officer now than it has ever been,” Comer said.

He also said that the auctions provide the added benefit of allowing the officers to maintain their evidence rooms and clean out the build-up of unclaimed guns.

“They sometimes accumulate items that lose evidentiary value, you don’t have a lawful owner to return them to, or we don’t know who the lawful owner is,” Comer said.

The Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office was one of the agencies selling their guns at Thursday’s auction after conducting an unclaimed property report to the state treasurer. Captain with the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office, Michael Webb, said that under West Virginia’s Unclaimed Property Code, they, like all of the other agencies, were simply following the law.

“It’s a requirement for agencies throughout West Virginia report unclaimed property as it no longer becomes evidence, so it’s just being compliant with West Virginia state law,” said Webb.

The firearms, ammunition, and accessories were examined Thursday morning before the auction began. There were about 480 lots up for sell so the auction was expected to take all day.

The treasury holds live gun auctions about once or twice a year. Comer said that they’ve been holding them for nine years now and it’s only growing, with last year’s auction raising nearly $110,000 for the law enforcement agencies.