Cities see gun buybacks as one tool to curb violence

Proponents of gun buyback programs hope they will help change the culture around guns.

While the national debate over gun control continues in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shootings, several major cities across the country have announced gun buyback programs.

Proponents say the programs are not expected to stop mass shootings like the one in Newtown, but instead are part of a larger effort to address public demands for more sensible gun-control measures.

In Seattle, Mayor Mike McGinn said the city will hold its first gun buyback event since 1992.

“It’s not a tool that is going to eliminate gun crime,” said McGinn’s spokesperson, Aaron Pickus. “It is something we can do and something we’re not pre-empted from doing at the state level. We’re looking to pull every lever we can, because the status quo is not acceptable.”

Pickus said equally important are youth violence prevention initiatives and working with the federal government to crack down on illegal gun sales.

Other cities planning gun buybacks are Santa Fe, N.M.; San Diego; Oakland, Calif.; San Francisco, and Miami.

Buffalo, N.Y.; Chicago; Camden, N.J.; Los Angeles, and Memphis, Tenn., are among cities that have held gun buyback programs for several years.

A Los Angeles gun buyback in late December brought in 2,037 guns, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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Tucson City Councilmember Steven Kozachi said he doesn’t expect his city’s gun buyback program to reduce crime. Instead, he said, it gives people who no longer feel comfortable with guns in their homes a chance to get rid of them safely.

“This will not stop a Jared Loughner,” he said, referring to the man charged with killing six people and wounding former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and a dozen others in a January 2011 shooting rampage at a Tucson supermarket. “It will not stop a mass shooting in Colorado. It might have prevented an accidental shooting in a home when a kid gets a hold of a gun and he shoots his sister. … It had nothing to do with the criminals. I didn’t expect Al Capone to surrender a gun.”

Around 206 firearms were turned in at the Tuscon buyback program held last week.

Most gun buyback programs allow for anonymous returns with no questions asked. Kozachi said police checked the serial numbers of each firearm turned in to determine whether they were reported lost or stolen, and several fell into both categories.

Pickus said the buybacks are intended to get guns off the streets and change public attitudes about firearms.

“How do you measure success?” Pickus said. “Is it no one dying from a firearm? We also don’t know exactly if there is one policy that’s going to change the dial.”

He said another goal is “changing the culture around firearms. That’s something the mayor would like to see happen. That kind of momentum is what we’re looking for.”

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