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Missile launcher turns up at Seattle gun buyback

| Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, 8:14 p.m.

SEATTLE — Seattle police worked with Army officials on 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 on Saturday bought the military weapon for $100 from another person there, Detective Mark Jamieson said.

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

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. “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.

“It was absolutely crazy what we saw out there,” Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said at a news conference where officials announced they had collected 716 weapons, including four confirmed as stolen.

Officers saw guns changing private hands without knowing whether the person buying the gun had the legal right to buy it, and those transactions are occurring all the time, McGinn said.

He added that the private sales of the missile launch tube and other weapons illustrate the need for comprehensive background checks as proposed by President Obama.

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.

“These are very dangerous weapons,” Metz said. “They may not have looked very pretty, but (they're) definitely operable.”

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 12 12-gauge shotgun shells.

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