A plan to sell a cache of weapons confiscated by St. Charles police saw more scrutiny Monday night than it did two weeks ago, but the outcome of the vote will still put about 20 firearms back into the private market.
Aldermen, in a nonbinding vote, agreed to the sale in May when it was presented by police officials as a plan to rid the department of weapons it had no use for. As a side benefit, the sale of the guns to two private dealers would raise about $6,425 in purchase credits with the dealers for future use by the police department. Aldermen gave tentative approval without a single "no" vote two weeks ago.
But additional media coverage during the past two weeks fueled some local concerns and second thoughts for some of the aldermen.
The League of Women Voters of Central Kane County publicly opposed the plan in a letter to the editor to the Daily Herald.
"One goal of the league, and presumably of the police, is to prevent violence and protect the health and safety of citizens through limiting the accessibility of handguns," wrote Jean Pierce, first vice president of the league chapter. "Even if the guns are being sold to 'legal' distributors, there is still a possibility that these guns will find their way into the hands of people who use them to commit crimes."
Alderman Maureen Lewis voiced similar concerns in the debate Monday night. She read a prepared statement that said any guns previously used by criminals or, in particular, a gun used to commit suicide should be destroyed, not sold. Lewis said she has no problem selling weapons previously used by police officers.
Both Lewis and Alderman Jo Krieger said they misunderstood when the plan was originally presented two weeks ago. They were under the impression all the weapons were either police guns or that the guns would be destroyed. As a result, they both changed their votes to "no" Monday night. Alderman Ed Bessner joined them.
Three "no" votes were not enough to reverse the original course of action from two weeks ago. The six other aldermen cast binding votes in favor of the sale as planned.
Mayor Ray Rogina votes only in the case of a tie, but he summed up the prevailing sentiments by saying any issue that involves guns or the sale of guns will leave some residents unhappy no matter what decision is made.
"Having said that, I have faith and trust in the St. Charles Police Department to make the right decision," Rogina said.
Rogina said the city will have a bigger gun issue to address in the near future as the state develops new concealed-carry laws.