More than $200,000 in charitable donations are giving Arizona residents another opportunity to take part in a gun buyback program, just one month after Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill into law that essentially will halt similar programs from taking place. The law goes into effect this summer.
The new law will require police departments to hand over all guns to a federally-licensed firearms dealer, who would then in turn sell the weapons on the open market. Police departments will no longer be able to destroy weapons, which is the current practice.
Brewer’s move was applauded by the National Rifle Association (NRA), which claimed the law will halt the attempts of progressives to peel back Second Amendment rights.
“… This measure would ensure that taxpayer resources are not utilized to pursue a political agenda of destroying firearms,” NRA’s Brent Gardner said in a letter applauding the bill.
Yet for those who are in favor of Phoenix’s program, it’s not a political agenda — it’s an effective tool in ridding the streets of weapons.
“The whole intent is to take unwanted guns off the street, process them and then ultimately destroy them,” Phoenix Police Department spokesman Sgt. Steve Martos told NBC News.
Phoenix has been a hotbed for charitably-driven gun buyback programs. The first two weekends in the originally planned three-weekend buyback program yielded more than 970 weapons. In turn, residents who handed their guns over received gift cards — $100 per gun and $200 for assault rifles.
The buyback program was extended when two anonymous donors came forth, each handing over $100,000 to the city to extend the program for another weekend. It was a move celebrated by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, who sees the programs as a way to collect — and destroy — unnecessary guns.
“Recently I received a phone call from an individual who was motivated by the success of the Phoenix gun buyback program, and was frankly a little frustrated that the legislature had passed a law that would ban these programs in the future,” he told KFYI News.
The donations will allow the city to buy up to 800 guns back — a goal they’re hoping to meet before Brewer’s bill takes hold.
A ban to the buyback
While those who supported the buyback bill claim it’s not halting buyback programs, those who have been involved in the process claim that’s exactly what it does.
“It would be counterproductive of us to be involved in a program where we would buy guns only to sell them back,” Martos told the Huffington Post. “I don’t know if that would be a benefit to us.”
This isn’t the first time Arizona legislatures have attempted to shut down the gun buyback program. In 2010, the state passed a bill that required police to hand over all firearms to dealers, who would then sell them on the market. Yet the police departments fought back, claiming guns collected in buyback programs were donated and not “seized.”
This time around, lawmakers were sure to add language that would not allow police departments to pull that same card.
Will it change anything?
Following a flurry of gun buybacks after the Newtown, Conn., Sandy Hook school shooting, experts claimed that while the buyback programs are a popular method of ridding America of a small portion of the 310 million guns in the country, they had little impact on gun violence.
“They make for good images,” Michael Scott, director of the Center for Problem Oriented Policing, told USA Today. “But gun buyback programs recover such a small percentage of guns that it’s not likely to make much impact.”
The problem lies in the dent — or lack thereof — buybacks make. With millions of guns on the street, the collection of 1,000 guns in a large city doesn’t affect the overall picture.
Yet for those in favor of the buyback programs, there’s comfort knowing that a weapon that is not being used, and which could potentially be stolen or accidentally fired, is off the street.
“At the end of the day, bad guys aren’t going to be online here selling us their guns, unfortunately,” New York’s Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino told New York’s CBS affiliate. “If there was a way to get those, absolutely. But you know what? Houses are burglarized, and guns are stolen that get into the hands of the bad guys. So this is preventative in that regard.”