Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a new $US250,000 effort to take guns of the city’s streets.
Under the new program, churches and neighbourhood community organisations can apply to hold their own buyback events, as opposed to previous buybacks which were a single city-run event.
“We’re going to try everything we can to bring a level of security and safety throughout the city of Chicago so that our families and our children have the opportunity to grow up free from violence,” Emanuel said, according to CBS Chicago.
Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy explained that buyback attendees will be able to anonymously turn in a gun, no questions asked. Participants will earn a $US100 cash card for returning a gun, meaning that the budget could fund the return of 2,500 guns.
Gun rights groups have already come out against the program. Richard Pearson, of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said that “Many of the firearms that they take in are often used in crimes and so, that’s a great place to dump firearms,” according to ABC 7 Chicago.
One group in particular is using the opportunity to mock the program.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the Illinois gun rights group Guns Save Life intends to repeat a stunt they pulled during a 2012 buyback which brought in around 5,500 guns.
The group returned about 60 guns, some of which were no longer functional, and used the proceeds to buy guns and ammunition for NRA youth camps. John Boch, the group’s executive director, said that Guns Save Life “will be delighted to transact business once more with do-gooders in Chicago.” The same report claims that some gun dealers unloaded stock valued at under $US100 to make a profit on the program.
Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told the Sun-Times that guns will be checked to see if they are operable.
“If people want to game the system, society is the victim, I think those people need to ask themselves, are they part of the solution to reduce violence?” he said.
In anticipation of the announcement, The Christian Science Monitor pointed to research that suggested buybacks may be ineffective. Not only do they remove a relatively small number of guns from circulation, but the people who return them are often not the type who would have committed crimes with them, according to Michael Scott, director of the Center for Problem Oriented Policing.
But according to CBS Chicago, Superintendent McCarthy isn’t phased.
“We get the parents and grandparents, we get the older brothers turning in the guns, so they’re actually taking the guns away from the kids who would be using them and giving them to us and in that case, you just can’t deny taking an assault rifle away from a gang banger is a good idea. Research can say whatever it wants, I can show you the examples,” he said.
“Every gun turned in is a potential live saved,” said 24th Ward Michael Scott Jr. (no relation to the director of the Center for Problem Oriented Policing), as quoted in the city’s press release.
The announcement comes after a weekend where three were killed and 18 injured in shootings across the city. One of those deaths was the case of a 3-year-old accidentally shot in the face by his 6-year-old brother in a game of “cops and robbers.”
Chicago has been historically hard on guns.
The city’s previous mayor, Richard M. Daley, said that “If it was up to me, no one except law enforcement officers would own a handgun.”
But gun-owners are seeing a number of new freedoms in the once-strict city. The Supreme Court struck down the city’s ban on handguns in 2010. In 2012, the state’s concealed carry ban was defeated by an appeals court. And last year, the city’s ban on retail gun shops was thrown out too.
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