COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — This conservative city of 375,000 souls is taking an unusual, some might say extreme, step to try to stem its fiscal woes: It's entering the gun business.
The Colorado Springs City Council is expected in coming weeks to approve the details of a program that would allow the Police Department to sell confiscated firearms to federally licensed gun dealers. Police have stopped melting down the hundreds of guns they collect from crime scenes, drug houses or civilians who don't want them.
The sales are projected to bring in about $10,000 a year, only a slight dent in a town that faced a deficit of one-quarter of its $200 million yearly budget this year. But every bit helps, said Vice Mayor Larry Small, who proposed the gun sales.
"Every penny counts," Small said.
Colorado Springs is home to the Army's Fort Carson, the Air Force Academy and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD.
People here are comfortable around firearms. But even in Colorado Springs, the idea of law enforcement as gun seller has raised some eyebrows.
The Police Department objected, only to be overruled by the council, which in February voted 8-1 to direct the department to draw up the program it will consider soon.
Lt. David Whitlock said the Police Department has been moving cautiously.
"There's all kinds of ancillary issues, one of which is the politics of being in the gun-selling business," Whitlock said.
"The other is not introducing another weapon into the community."
Jan Martin, the lone council member who voted against the sales, said the small amount of money they could bring in is outweighed by the risk that a gun sold by the city could one day be used for a crime.
"I remember what some of those weapons were used for," Martin said. "Just the idea of putting those weapons back on the street is unconscionable."