Blue-Light Special

When it came to guns, the Overland cops weren't just playing around

Other buyers included Otis Greif, the owner of O.K. Novelty Co., an Overland-based vending-machine company and, until his death, an influential figure in local politics. Don Maxey, a retired teacher in the Ritenour School District, was another buyer. Some of the buyers had law-enforcement connections as members or alternates to the city's police-advisory board. Maxey says he served as an alternate on the board, which he describes as an "honorary" position. Asked about his gun purchases, Maxey says, "I don't know nothing about all that," referring the RFT to current Police Chief James Herron.

In May 1991, the department bought three more Model 22s from Glock for $900 and resold them to Munsch and Mark Brown. The mayor bought two, the alderman one.

Munsch sees nothing wrong with his purchases. "All I know is, I wrote a check out and paid for everything that I got," he says. "I went over and got a permit for anything and everything. I got a 9mm or a .40 -- I got a permit for it, and I paid the going price for it. As the mayor of the city, I was entitled to purchase a weapon."

"Overland was buying and selling guns.... So they were in the gun business. That's the bottom line." - Don Gault, former Overland police 


officer
"Overland was buying and selling guns.... So they were in the gun business. That's the bottom line." - Don Gault, former Overland police

officer

"Overland was buying and selling guns.... So they were in the gun business. That's the bottom line." -- Don Gault, former Overland police officer
Geoffrey Grahn
"Overland was buying and selling guns.... So they were in the gun business. That's the bottom line." -- Don Gault, former Overland police officer

Ald. Brown says the Montgomery County officers grouped together to save money -- about $40 a gun -- plus, they were able to qualify on the new guns at the Overland firing range. Brown says he registered the guns he bought with St. Louis County -- county records verify that -- but not everybody else did.

"The other people who were buying them for individual use, and not for law enforcement, were violating the federal taxes, which were about $45-$50 a gun," Brown adds. (Any gun sold for personal use is subject to the federal tax, but the tax is collected and paid by the manufacturer, says Special Agent Larry P. Scott, spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms' field division in Kansas City, Mo. The manufacturer or dealer wouldn't necessarily know whether a tax-exempt police department was reselling the guns. And even if the ATF discovered that taxes were owed, the agency has just three years to collect any delinquencies, Scott says. Ray Reynolds, Glock's regional manager, says he didn't know Overland was reselling its new guns. "I was totally unaware of that," he says.)

Some of the Glocks that the police bought and sold were resold to other individuals; some that were sold to private individuals were not registered with St. Louis County; and others were registered late.

Ald. Golden, for example, bought his Glock Model 19 from the police department in 1989, then resold it to Karam. When the investigation into the department's handling of Chris Sarros' missing guns picked up steam in late 1995, Golden quietly repurchased his gun from Karam, then turned it over to Chief Williams in February 1996. Gault couldn't locate any receipts on the gun but in a brief report concluded that an "inventory of firearms sold by this department indicates Mr. Golden did legally purchase this weapon." The gun was returned to Golden, who registered it with the county within 10 days.

Golden, who is no longer in public office, says he received assurances from the police that his purchase in 1989 was legal and served the purpose of keeping the cost of police guns down. The deal, he recalls, also was intended to ensure that guns sold outside the department remained in the city of Overland. But years later, as questions arose about the department's handling of guns, he grew concerned. "I would never cross any line that was inappropriate," Golden says. "But as time passed, the same issue kept coming up. I thought, 'Well you don't sit on something. You take it to the folks in charge.'" Golden suggests he probably should have passed on "the opportunity" to buy the gun, and he keeps the Glock now as "a reminder of the importance of waking up on a decision."

Eddy Williams and Glock weren't finished just yet.

Although the chief had equipped his officers with new semiautomatics in 1990, he decided to upgrade again in June 1991. The city paid Glock about $20,000 for 57 Glock Model 22s. Overland sold 55 of the 66 older Glock Model 19s -- the guns that didn't end up in private hands -- to Ray O'Herron Co. Inc., a Danville, Ill.-based police supplier, for $15,125.

Chief Williams still had another gun deal to make. In February 1995, the police department placed another order for 58 Glock Model 22s. Glock charged the city $23,860 for the new Model 22s and magazines but offered the city a full credit if it traded in its older Model 22s and 154 magazines. The deal ended up costing the city nothing.

Reynolds, the Glock regional manager, says the new Model 22s included drop-free magazines, but former officers say there was another motive for the trade.

They say the last trade-in was triggered, at least in part, by the new federal assault-weapon ban in 1994, which barred the manufacture or importation of high-capacity magazines -- magazines holding more than 10 rounds -- made after Sept. 13, 1994. The new law, which specifically exempted law-enforcement agencies, made pre-ban high-capacity magazines and pre-ban semiautomatics hot commodities. Because it was -- and still is -- legal for civilians to own and buy pre-ban weapons, gun manufacturers and dealers turned to Overland and other police departments to supply the public demand for old semiautomatics and high- capacity magazines. Financially, the assault-weapon ban was a boon for police departments that wanted to get new weapons inexpensively.

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