ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – A warehouse in west St. Louis County is where police departments from across the country send confiscated firearms to be destroyed.
Each gun is destroyed within seconds in a 6,000-pound machine called the Pulverizer.
“We get everything from an agency saying, ‘Hey, we have one gun that we need to destroy,’ to a client in Michigan—Michigan State Police—which requires thousands of guns to be destroyed a month,” Scott Reed, president of GunBusters, said.
Police departments meticulously track each seized gun, like a list we found filed with the courts by Hazelwood Police. It lists the type of weapon and the reason for the seizure. It may be a criminal case or a mental health crisis.
“A lot of the crime we see, there’s mental health aspects involved in that,” Lt. Blake Carrigan, St. Ann Police Department, said.
Carrigan says his department employs a mental health coordinator for that reason. He remembers a case that never made the news because police stopped a potential shooter before his threatened strike.
“He was threatening to harm her, threatening to kill her, had sent text messages saying, ‘I am going to come over to your house and shoot you and kill you.’ We intercepted him before he got to the house,” Carrigan said.
A suspect’s gun is then stored in an evidence chain of possession box.
The Chesterfield Police Department was one of the first local departments to hire GunBusters. Sgt. Robert Powell explained it’s a long process prior to a weapon’s destruction.
“Firearms have to make their way through the court system and once we get that clearance, we petition the courts through a court order, which grants us permission to then release that weapon,” Powell said.
GunBusters will sometimes come pick up the guns or the company might hold a mobile event.
Each firearm is pulverized under the eye of two cameras, simultaneously recording the serial number and the shredding. It’s recorded with the date and time for police departments to keep.
“We want that verification. And that’s another really good thing about GunBusters: not only will our evidence technician witness a gun being destroyed, but we are provided with video evidence,” Powell said.
Reed added, “It’s a method that destroys the gun but also provides them with the documentation. So, if they ever had to show anyone—a judge, prosecutor, victim—what happened to the firearm that was used, they could show them.”
Police departments can leave behind hundreds of guns in exchange for thumb drives containing videos of each destruction. Reed says most of the crushed metal is recycled. Some of it is molded into a paperweight that police departments can also walk away with, along with the video drive.