June 28, 2013 10:38:28 AM
Sarah Fowler - [email protected]
Four months after the Columbus Police Department sponsored a gun buyback program, organizers are mulling over whether to make it an annual event.
Sixty-two firearms were collected at what was supposed to be a two-day event on Feb. 26-27. However, would-be gun sellers lined up at locations across the city and the allotted $10,000 ran out within four hours.
The idea for the buyback program originated with Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem, who suggested the police department host the gun buyback program and the city council voted to provide the funds.
"We have to be more proactive," Karriem said. "We don't need to wait until a tragedy happens in the community to do something about guns."
Karriem said he suggested the program after several police officers mentioned they were routinely encountering young teenagers with guns.
"The people that have the weapons are getting younger and younger," he said.
While the program was hotly debated, chief of police Selvain McQueen said the $10,000 expenditure was worth every penny.
"Saving one life is assuredly worth more than $10,000," he said.
The firearms are scheduled to be destroyed in the coming weeks. None of the collected firearms had been reported stolen.
With one program under their belts, Karriem said he is hoping there will be other community organizations that will want to get involved and host similar events.
"I think we need to look at all avenues as far as whatever it takes to make the citizens of Columbus safer," Karriem said. "We need more churches involved for input as well as young adults on what they think we can do to improve the gun buy back program.
"I feel like anytime you can take one gun off the streets it was effective. I wish that the mayor and council would go back and look at the program and work out any kinks, if there were any, and see what we can do to make the program better. I don't think we should just stop with one effort trying to get the guns off the streets.
"If it worked properly, I think it could be an effective program."
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.