February 6, 2013 11:02:16 AM
Jeff Clark - [email protected]
The Columbus City Council has approved a gun buy-back program.
Passed by a unanimous vote during Tuesday's council meeting, the gun buy-back initiative will allow Columbus residents to trade their guns for cash. The proposal was introduced by Mayor Robert Smith on behalf of Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem.
"I have discussed this with (Columbus Police Department Chief) Selvain McQueen," Smith said. "I think it's a great idea. It's a proactive way to take guns off the street."
Karriem said he had initially proposed the idea to fellow council members more than a year ago but no action was taken at that time.
"I think this lets the citizens of Columbus know we care about their safety," Karriem said. "If we get only one gun off the street, we have made Columbus a safer place."
McQueen, who said he was the author of the proposal, claimed the program is not just to get guns off the streets but out of some homes.
"I think this is a good idea," McQueen said. "In addition to illegal guns, this will allow widows whose husbands had a closet full of guns to exchange them for money instead of having someone break into their house and steal them."
The passage of the buy-back motion allocated $10,000 from the general fund to be used for the purchase of the guns. Payments would range from $20 for BB guns and air pistols to $300 for assault rifles. Citizens who participate in this program would remain anonymous. The program will take place on set Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Sims Scott Park, Townsend Community Center, East Columbus Gym and the Walmart parking lot. The first buy-back date has not yet been scheduled.
"We will run the guns through the system to see if they are stolen and if they are, we will try to get them back to their owners," McQueen said. "We will make the guns surplus and if they can't be used as surplus, the guns will be destroyed."
Smith and Karriem also encouraged local philanthropists and civic and church groups to support the program through donations and gun drives.
Although Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box supported the motion, he said the city needed to emphasize the program is a voluntary measure.
"The last time we talked about this, one of our big concerns was that people thought we were going to be taking their guns," Box said. "With all of the current talk about Second Amendment rights, we need to stress that this is on a volunteer basis."
Reaction to the council's vote on the buy-back program was met with criticism from some residents, particularly among some members of the Columbus Facebook Watch Group, who were quick to take to the Internet after Tuesday's meeting.
"Turn your guns in so bad people can't get them when they break into your house?" asked Wayne Doyle via Facebook. "This is a disgrace to the citizens of Columbus. How stupid do they think we are?"
Carol Sims Fortner minced no words in showing her displeasure with the program by posting, "They are out of their ever-loving mind."
A bill written by Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus, would have prohibited the use of tax money for gun buy-back programs and gun destructions. The bill died in committee earlier this legislative session, however.
Columbus Gun Buy-Back Program
■ Program is voluntary
■ Buy backs will be held on set dates at set locations
■ Buy backs will be done anonymously
■ Gun numbers will be checked to see if gun is stolen
■ BB guns and air rifles $20
■ Hand guns $100
■ Rifles/shotguns $200
■ Assault rifles $300