A Christmas Eve letter from 40 members of Congress sent to House Speaker demanded a national gun buyback program be initiated immediately. The letter originated with Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.).(R-Ohio) and the Minority Leader (D-Calif)
“Gun buybacks have proven successful in communities across the nation,” the open letter to House colleagues reads. “Adding $200 million to the final compromise on the fiscal cliff could remove as many as one million guns from our streets.” Such a move, said the representatives, would be a “simple, immediate step we can take to assure the public we are committed to taking meaningful action,” according to a report in breitbart.com.
The Democrats argued that the buyback program would have the additional affect of being an economic stimulus for the nation. Both Sen. Diane Feinstein and New York Gov.issued a statement the week before saying, “Confiscation [of guns] could be an option. Mandatory sale to the state could be an option.”
The Sandy Hook tragedy has sparked gun buyback programs all around the nation, and California leads the way as programs are initiated throughout the state.
California has taken an aggressive stance toward gun buyback and is moving forward without a federal initiative. In Los Angeles, lines of cars waited at the gun buyback point outside Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena and the Van Nuys Masonic Temple. Shotguns, rifles and handguns could be exchanged for a $100 Ralphs grocery store card, no questions asked. Assault weapons garnered a $200 grocery card, reported in the New York Times.
The last buyback in Los Angeles netted approximately 1,700 guns last year, and the city realized a drop in crime. According to Police Chief Charlie Beck, gun violence has been reduced by 20% since the program was launched, the Los Angeles Times reports, although there may have been other factors involved in the reduction. The current buyback is expected to exceed that number, as more than 1,600 weapons were turned in before noon on Wednesday.
The San Francisco Bay Area started a buyback immediately after the Sandy Hook tragedy. The San Francisco Police Department paid $200 for each unloaded gun with valid proof of San Francisco residency, and the Oakland Police Department is offering the same program. This is the first time both cities teamed up to coordinate a buyback. Other than requiring residency proof, turning over guns is completely anonymous with no questions asked.
The gun buyback is reportedly being funded by an anonymous donor in San Francisco and Oakland, with a limit of three guns per seller. The guns will be destroyed by the police.
"How many times have we heard, 'there's too many guns, there's too many guns,'" Joe Marshall, executive director of the Omega Boys Club in San Francisco, told the Oakland Tribune. "This is a chance to get some of those weapons off the street."
The television news station CBS in San Francisco reports on the reasons for the residency requirement. In 2008 during a gun buyback, gun dealers and owners traveled in from outside the area to trade in old, non-functioning weapons that were not considered a danger to the community and would not be involved in street-level gun violence.
The U.S. federal legislation, sponsored mainly by the Democrats in Congress to support the gun buyback through a stimulus program, demonstrates commitment by some legislatures to be proactive in eliminating the number of guns on the streets of America. Buyback programs have proven successful as Los Angeles experienced a drop in crime last year after the buyback, despite what some critics like, research director at the Oakland-based think tank the Independent Institute is saying in USA Today, “It’s like trying to drain the Pacific with a bucket.” This begs the question that if the gun problem in America is the size of the Pacific Ocean, are we to stand by and do nothing?
Private donations are, indeed, appreciated to fund gun buyback programs, but these programs around the nation should not have to depend solely on donations. Federal, state and county financial support needs to be in place in order to conduct buybacks on a regular basis. The US Congress’ proposal to add $200 million to the current economic negotiations is the right thing to do. If there ever was a reason to add this comparably small amount to the budget, this is it.