• Sheriff: Ballistics tests not run on all guns obtained in buybacks

    By: Catherine Varnum


    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - An Action News investigation is revealing how the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office gun buyback program could accidentally prevent local crimes from being solved. 

    We learned that not each and every one of those weapons are being thoroughly tested before they're destroyed. Sheriff John Rutherford told Action News by phone that JSO doesn't run ballistics tests on every gun to see if it matches unsolved cases.

    It has almost been a year since Megan Simmons and Jaszmine Shelton were shot and killed while sleeping in a Northside home.

    "In our hearts we feel like our case has gone cold," said Simmons' aunt Neta Sessions. 

    Sessions said not a day goes by they don't think about the gunman still on the streets. Sessions was even more frustrated when we told her about JSO's gun buyback program. 

    "It's aggravating because they may be letting a murderer go free," said Sessions. "If they're not running ballistics on all the guns, they could be murder weapons for my niece." 

    The sheriff boasted about the program earlier this week. So far, more than 2,000 guns have been brought in and 33 of them were stolen. People bring in a gun and get $50. 

    "Unless they're signing something saying immunity, there's no immunity. That's a myth," said Action News law and safety expert Dale Carson. 

    Carson is critical of the program. 

    "The guns seized need to be evaluated against ballistic evidence to try and solve unsolved crimes," he said.      

    Rutherford said the gun's serial numbers are run through their system, but if it's not in a report, they can't tie it to a case. Any guns they do find that could be part of a criminal act are put in evidence until the case is solved, Rutherford said.

    The next gun buyback will be held Saturday, June 28 at the North Jacksonville Baptist Church on Main Street.

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