7 Things To Do With Your Unwanted Guns

You might have a gun you don’t want for any number of reasons, but you don’t want it to fall into the wrong hands, and you might prefer that it not be used ever again. Be aware that if you have inherited guns, they are subject to registration in many regions, unless you’re temporarily holding them while you act as executor of an estate. If you have any questions, consult an attorney or local police to determine the legality of your weapons.

Fortunately, there are a lot of options for you to consider when it comes to getting rid of an unwanted gun.

1. Amnesty programs. Most police departments, sheriff’s offices, and other law enforcement offices have gun amnesty programs. You can turn in unwanted weapons and ammunition any time, although you should call ahead first to get the program guidelines (and in some cases, they might want to send someone out to your house to collect your weapons). Amnesty programs melt down weapons and maintain a careful tracking process so you can check to confirm that the gun you turned in was destroyed.

2. Donation to training programs. Law enforcement agencies, gun safety organizations and other groups use guns in training, and some have limited budgets for purchasing weapons. You can choose to donate an unwanted weapon and ammunition for use in training; and if you have concerns about the gun being misused, you can request that it be deactivated. Deactivated guns are commonly used as training and demonstration aids.

3. Have a meltdown. Want to be 100% sure your unwanted gun is really, seriously, truly destroyed? You can arrange to have it melted down yourself. Contact local foundries to see which ones handle meltdowns and to get information about the guidelines. They may want to wait until they have a batch of guns for meltdown from law enforcement or other groups, at which point they can add your gun to the pile, and in other cases, foundry personnel can take one or more privately-owned guns as a special commission.

4. Guns to art projects. Guns as art? Sure. Jeweler Jessica Mindich uses guns to make her ‘Caliber’ line of jewelry, taking them out of circulation and giving them a new lease on life. Artist Pedro Reyes just can’t seem to stay away from them; he used guns to make shovels used to plant 1,527 trees (the same number of guns collected) and he’s also turned them into musical instruments. Victor Hugo Zayas made a huge sculpture from the proceeds of LA’s gun buyback program, while part of the Olympic Stadium in London was built from confiscated weapons. Okay, that last one wasn’t art, but it was still cool.

5. Deactivation. A gun can be modified so that it is no longer capable of firing by a gunsmith or other experienced professional. The process involves making permanent changes to the firing mechanism, barrel, and other components, depending on the weapon, to ensure it can’t be used again. Be aware that regional laws about deactivation vary; you may still need to license the gun or be subject to other ownership restrictions. And you should be sure to turn your ammunition into the police department, since you won’t be needing it any more.

6. Buybacks. Gun buyback programs are periodically arranged to encourage people to turn in weapons for a reward. People may be given cash, gift cards, tax credits, or vouchers, depending on how a program is set up. Before you participate in a buyback program, though, make sure you know what is happening to the guns afterwards, and confirm the identity of who is running the event. In Detroit, for example, a group of gun advocates ran a competing gun buyback program when the police organized one.

7. Museum donations. Chances are low that you have a gun a museum will be interested in, as most aren’t in the business of racking up firearms. But if you have an older or unusual piece, it’s worth asking if a museum would like to have it. You can deactivate the weapon before donation to ensure that in the event of a security breach, your unwanted gun won’t end up being used in the commission of a crime.

Related stories:

Senator Feinstein Promises Action on Gun Control. Can Congress Deliver?

5 Things About Guns the UK Could Teach the US

Florida to Prohibit Doctors from Asking About Guns

Photo credit: Australian Civil-Military Centre

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Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson2 years ago

we are such gun hoarders. my boyfriend and his family members would never think to get rid of any of their guns lol

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago


Jeff A.
Jeff Alterman2 years ago

What people can also do with unwanted guns is to sell them to someone who would want a perfectly good used gun. Also keep a lookout if one has an older gun since it might be a collectible. Make sure that the party one sells their gun to is a licensed firearms dealer or reseller.

Angela Roquemore
Angela Roquemore2 years ago

What you DON'T want to do is what the PICTURE advocates: burning/melting the guns down yourself. That's just as dangerous as a Mexican drug lord getting one.

Philip S.
Philip S.2 years ago

Now there are a lot more since December 2012 was the biggest month for gun sales ever recorded. Whatever you do, don't give them to the Federal gov't, they'll just give them to Mexican drug lords.

Ken H.
Ken H.2 years ago

@ Steve Y............I dont think this article should be connected to people dying from guns,its an article to help people get rid of weapons they either dont want no more or dont feel safe having because they dont understand gun safety/usage. I dont believe there is a gun problem,theres a people problem and one that rests on folks who are not that mature.Its the wiring in our heads thats been programed over decades that its ok to shoot others to solve problems.The military is the biggest misuser by killing millions of people,but people dont think of taking their guns,why is that?

Steve Yakoban
Steve Yakoban2 years ago

Unfortunately these are minimalistic efforts that have no real affect on the gun problem.

Debra Calogero
Debra C.2 years ago

I turned my 5 handguns over to the local police. Mom is an ex- cop so I had some nice ones buy my ego is not so big that I need any gun to prove I'm a patriotic American. I realized that watching the Sandy Hook murders reports. And supporting the twisting of the 2nd amendment into making it sound like our forefathers felt that ALL Americans should have guns is just not what I believe any longer. I'm just smarter now than to let myself be manipulated by the nut running the NRA and gun shows any longer. This is just my opinion and NOT to be taken as what I think other gun owners should do. To each their own.

Patricia H.
Patricia H.2 years ago

great post

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola2 years ago

Thank you for a very important article.