ballwin police bulding

Ballwin Police building in Vlasis Park

At the Oct. 25 Ballwin Board of Aldermen meeting, Police Chief Doug Schaeffler called for advanced rifle purchases for his active officers. He also asked for a lottery to be held for sales of some of the older existing guns to current officers and perhaps to retired officers who are still Ballwin residents.

One citizen at that meeting expressed his displeasure that the idea was not also being extended to law-abiding Ballwin citizens. Some of the board members agreed.

At the board’s Nov. 8 meeting, another citizen, Michael Scott, followed that lead. Speaking for 5 minutes, Scott agreed that Ballwin’s officers should be better equipped than potential criminals but he disagreed with excluding Ballwin citizens in the lottery.     

Scott made the case that there’s a difference between being competent with a weapon and being well-trained. “The police are well-trained,” he said. “It would surprise you to know how many people in Ballwin are also well-trained. This is not a unique thing if you are a gun enthusiast or from the military.”

He added that a lottery opened up to citizens isn’t going to affect how many guns are on the street because the police department could easily determine who’s coming in to purchase them. He said they can set their own parameters on how to sell them, and there’s little chance of them falling into the wrong hands. You wouldn’t see a felon walking into a police station and wanting to buy some guns, Scott said.

“I wouldn’t care if you gave every officer one as a thank you for your service; take one,” Scott said. “But it does bother me when citizens can’t participate if it goes to a lottery for police/citizens. At the time of purchase, they’re citizens. They’re not police at that point. I don’t see the difference of who buys it. I was surprised by the statements, and the position, and as a responsible citizen, I think I have a right to disagree. And that’s my point. I was disappointed in how the citizens were looked at in view of the sale.”

Later in the meeting, City Attorney Robert Jones revisited the issue in legal terms.

“I was reminded that I was asked to talk about the firearms lottery,” Jones said. “I did research it to confirm my own understanding. There’s a body of law, which is the Gun Control Act of 1968, which controls what we think of as the landscape for transfer of firearms, and the concept of the Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) that comes from the Gun Control Act. Well, there is an exception for private transfers/private sales, and that exception only applies to transfers for residents of the same state.  ‘Persons’ is defined rather broadly in the Gun Control Act to include companies, corporations, associations and firms, and the residents of those entities in which the business is located. So, to make a long story short, as long as the Ballwin Police Department is transferring firearms to other Missouri residents, it can be done as a private transfer without the requirement of a Federal Firearms Licensee.

“So, it’s up to the board if you want to make a motion to proceed with the staff report recommendation, or if you want to suggest different alternatives, which is a bulk transfer to a store, a purchaser like that or a lottery, which would be open to more than to simply the police officers. But what we cannot do is to put it on Govdeals or something like that because that opens it up beyond the state of Missouri.”

Aldermen Kevin Roach (Ward 2), Ray Kerlagon (Ward 4) and Mark Stallmann (Ward 2) agreed that Ballwin citizens should at least be included in the process. Roach spoke of possibly selling the firearms as a bulk item to a third party to resell them. Kerlagon said that would save Ballwin a lot of paperwork.  Stallmann said by that process, the obligation of who they’re sold to goes to that registered gun dealer.

However, alderman Frank Fleming (Ward 3) said he felt most comfortable knowing that the guns would be going to our police officers and that he’s still unsure about the details of a third party sale.  

“It didn’t sound like we were just giving these away, either, but it’s very simple to sell to our own guys,” Fleming said. “I don’t know if I’m ready to make a call on that tonight. Was there any urgency to this? I just think it would be nice to have more time to consider this. I don’t like doing things like this on the fly.  This is important, and if we have the ability to take a little more time, instead of doing so rather abruptly.”

Mayor Tim Pogue and Jones commented further and others wondered if a motion should be made. Roach made one of disposing of excessive firearms with sales to a third party as bulk. It failed by a 5-3 vote. The topic may be revisited at a future meeting.