Missile launcher shows up at Seattle gun buyback

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle police worked with Army officials Monday to track down the history of a nonfunctional missile launcher that showed up at a weapons buyback program and determine whether it was legal or possibly stolen from the military.

A man standing outside the event Saturday bought the military weapon for $100 from another person there, according to Detective Mark Jamieson.

The single-use device is a launch tube assembly for a Stinger portable surface-to-air missile and already had been used. As a controlled military item, it is not available to civilians through any surplus or disposal program offered by the government, according to Jamieson.

Seattle police have contacted Army officials at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma deputy chief Nick Metz said.

“Once it’s brought on base and investigators have a chance to look at it, they’ll see what they can determine,” Army spokesman Joe Kubistek said Monday. “It’s too early to give any information on it until we have hands-on access to see it and take a look at it.”

Police witnessed the private exchange of the military launch tube near the gun buyback event, where gun buyers tempted those standing in long lines to turn in their weapons with cash.

Officers saw guns changing private hands without knowing whether the person buying the gun had the legal right to buy it.

While there were private gun buyers at the periphery of Saturday’s event, Metz said a large majority of people chose to wait in line and get less money because they wanted to make sure they got the weapons off the streets.

The firearms collected included 348 pistols, 364 rifles and three so-called street sweepers, or shotguns that include a high capacity magazine capable of holding twelve 12-gauge shotgun shells.

The program allowed people to anonymously turn in their weapons for a shopping gift card worth up to $200 — $100 for each handgun, rifle or shotgun turned in, and $200 for each gun classified as an assault weapon under state law. Officials distributed about $70,000 in gift cards at the event.

Police took possession of the launch tube Saturday. Police said the man who had purchased it agreed to accept a gift card as compensation if the launch tube is not returned to him, though the man indicated he wanted to keep it if he was legally able to do so.

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