Seattle and King County officials today announced the city’s first gun buyback program in 20 years. The goal is to reduce gun violence, both intentional and accidental.
The first gun buyback will take place Saturday, Jan. 26, in downtown Seattle, in the parking lot beneath Interstate 5 between Cherry and James Streets. People can anonymously turn in handguns, shotguns and rifles, no questions asked, for $100 gift cards, or assault weapons for $200 gift cards.
A 1992 gun buyback in Seattle netted 1,172 guns. But a study two years later found the buyback had not led to a significant decrease in gun violence. Still, at a news conference at Mount Zion Baptist Church today, King County Executive Dow Constantine dismissed criticism of the effectiveness of gun buybacks. "We’re talking about a $100,000 program that, if it prevents one shooting, will easily pay for itself," Constantine said. "So I reject the cynicism saying this is not a universal solution, that this doesn’t get to the fundamental problem of the unlimited supply of guns. It gets to the problem [that] a particular gun can accidentally or intentionally be used to kill someone. And that’s good."
Seattle Police Deputy Chief Nick Metz said even if people who turn in their guns had been unlikely to use them, a buyback can still save lives. "I want you to imagine you have a gun in your home, and you haven’t secured it properly, and you come home and your house has been burglarized and your gun is missing," Metz said. "And then you find out a week later that that gun that you should have secured has been used in a homicide. Ask yourself how you’re going to feel — that that’s something that you could have prevented."
Metz said police will screen gun serial numbers for stolen weapons, which will be returned to their owners. Ballistics tests will only be performed on stolen weapons, he said, in order to determine whether they've been used in a crime.
Funding for the buyback is coming from private sources like Amazon.com, Inc., which donated gift cards. Organizers have raised $108,000 so far.
Only one buyback date has been announced, but organizers plan to keep them going as long as funding allows.
Mayor Mike McGinn says Nucor Steel in Seattle has volunteered to melt the guns down to keep them off the streets for good.