Backlog at St. Louis crime lab has some legal gun owners unarmed

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by Lauren Trager / News 4 | @LaurenTrager

KMOV.com

Posted on February 20, 2014 at 11:53 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 21 at 12:01 AM

 (KMOV) -- One government agency has hundreds of guns in storage, some of them perfectly legal, and the owners of those guys aren’t too happy about it.

Some police chiefs News 4’s Lauren Trager talked to are also wondering what’s taking so long to process weapons at the St. Louis County Crime Lab.

The lab’s ballistics unit is backed up more than 1,500 cases and can take well over a year to get a gun through.

“The oldest case is from July of 2012,” said Detective Michael Wunderlich, the supervisor of the unit.

“I don’t like the fact we have a backlog as long as it is, and as large as it is,” he said.

The problem is, despite their state of the art technology and a newly renovated facility, there are only two detectives right now, grant funding is tight and priorities must be made for the most serious cases.

But the guns just keep coming. A number of police agencies will seize weapons and send them here for testing, even if the person was arrested on a simple traffic stop.

“What would you say to someone who might argue that 12 or 18 months is too long for an agency to hold on to someone’s legal gun?” asked News 4’s Lauren Trager.

“I would agree with you from their perspective. But what you have to remember that every firearm was brought to law enforcement attention for one reason or another,” Wunderlich said.

So called “innocent” guns do sometimes turn out to be not so.

“We have helped investigations, I think it is necessary,” Wunderlich said.

So for now, they ask the good gun owners to be patient.

The backlog should ease soon with newly trained detectives on the way in the coming weeks.  

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