ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Each year, thousands of guns are seized by law enforcement all around the St. Louis region.

But have you ever wondered what happens to those guns afterwards?

Other states have started requiring police departments to sell them back to the public. So are guns in the St. Louis area making their way back to the streets?

Police tell News 4 they’re seizing guns nearly every single day. But it's even more than you might think: St. Louis County seized 1,170 guns last year. St. Louis city seized 2,600.

Our News 4 cameras got a rare look behind the scenes to find out what happens to many of the guns seized by St. Louis police. Those which might have been used in a crime are taken to the firearms labs for testing and analysis.

They are sometimes test fired into a giant water tank and then examined, to see if police can make a match, and potentially solve a crime.

The guns might then be used as evidence at a trial. If not, they may be stored for years.

But what happens to them after all of that has become a target of controversy.

Eleven states, including neighboring Kansas, have recently passed laws pushing police to sell them, in most instances.

But that makes some agencies near us uneasy.

“We are concerned about the criminals getting more guns in their hands,” said St. Charles County Police Capt. David Tiefenbrunn. He says his department's decision is to destroy them.

Under current Missouri law, once they receive a court order, police have a choice between disposing of the weapons or selling them to a licensed firearms dealer.

That’s not an option according to Capt. Tiefenbrunn.

“It’s already been used in a crime once and if it was released from police custody, that's obviously not a good thing,” said Capt. Tiefenbrunn.

To destroy their guns, many agencies are turning to a local company, GunBusters, which literally pulverizes them to pieces. It's free for law enforcement.

Scott Reed with GunBusters says the company came up with the patented process that works pretty much like a paper shredder and can bust up anything from hand guns to long guns and even brass knuckles. The computer takes a video, so the departments have a record that the gun's really gone to bits.

In exchange for the free service, GunBusters can sell non-critical parts off the guns, like grips, magazines and trigger assemblies.

Over the last few years, they've destroyed 22,000 guns for more than 120 agencies in Missouri and Illinois.

In addition to St. Charles County police, GunBusters works with the St. Louis City Sheriff's Office and the Franklin and Jefferson County Sheriff's offices.

St. Louis County and City police don't sell their guns, but opt instead to melt them.

During our research we found only one town, Arnold, which sells their confiscated guns at auction, which is the way the National Rifle Association prefers.

In a statement to News 4, they said, "Destroying valuable items such as firearms is incredibly shortsighted. They should be treated like many other confiscated items and sold to people legally allowed to possess them. The funds raised can help pay for training, equipment, ammunition, or any number of other items that police departments across the country are struggling to finance."

So far this year, Kansas City, Kansas has generated over $19,000 in revenue by selling their guns.

But again some police we talked to say that's not worth the risk that the guns could be used again in a crime.

Law enforcement agencies do say they make every attempt to return guns to their lawful and law-abiding owners, before ever thinking of disposing of them.

Copyright 2019 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All Rights Reserved

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