February 26, 2013 10:18:27 AM
The Columbus Police Department's gun buyback program succeeded beyond anyone's wildest imagination.
Even among the program's detractors, there is no question that the program exceeded expectations.
When the city council set aside $10,000 for the program, a plan advocated by Mayor Robert Smith and Councilman Kabir Karriem in January, skeptics predicted that the program would be a flop, pulling in only a few broken guns.
You wonder, too, if even the CPD expected much of a response given their plans -- which was supposed to be a three-day event staged at four locations.
In all, CPD officers were to have been available for citizens to turn in their guns for cash for 18 hours over those three days.
Instead, it took less than three hours for the CPD to burn through the $10,000 in payments as a long line of would-be sellers formed in the Walmart parking lot. By 11 a.m., the money was exhausted and those still in line complained about not having had the chance to turn in their guns for cash.
In the end, the gun buyback collected 54 firearms ranging from shotguns to handguns to military/assault rifles.
So, in the most basic sense, the gun buyback program was a rousing success.
Those opposed to the program will argue that hard-core criminals weren't likely to participate, that the program would amount to little more than a glorified garage sale funded by taxpayers.
Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus, has even introduced legislation to prohibit Mississippi cities from holding gun buybacks on the odd theory that voluntary surrender of firearms makes citizens more vulnerable to crime. In other words, Chism doesn't merely support the right to bear arms, he pretty much insists on it.
Meanwhile, those who support the program say that if just one gun that would have otherwise fallen into the wrong hands was taken off the street, the program would have achieved an important goal.
Is Columbus the safer for Monday's gun buyback? That's a question virtually impossible to answer.
Still in a country that is drowning in firearms -- estimates as high as 300 million in circulation in the U.S. -- disposing of any unwanted gun seems a fairly benign proposition.
CPD Chief Selvain McQueen hopes to hold another gun buyback program, although how it will be funded has not been determined.
If we learned anything from Monday's experience, any future buyback program will need far more than $10,000.