A closer look at the effectiveness of gun buyback programs

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The last time The City of Syracuse held a gun buyback program was in 2009. “The timing is right,” said Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, “And we know I hear from neighbors all across the city that are tired of the violence.”

The city is partnering with New York Attorney General Letitia James on this amnesty program. “There are no questions asked and there’s no tracing of these guns,” James explained.

Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick supports the program but says it can can be challenging.

“Many, many years ago when we did our first buyback, I’m talking two decades ago, most of the stuff we got was junk. So, we changed the criteria to limit our buyback program to operable, illegal handguns.”

Bill Fitzpatrick, Onondaga County District Attorney

Fitzpatrick said that change, under then Police Chief Gary Miguel, yielded between 140 and 145 operable, illegal guns.

“I’m well aware of what the data says, it shows it doesn’t reduce violence, the program itself, but there’s significant value in removing guns from the street,” said Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner.

Fitzpatrick explained where the value comes in. “At the very least you’re going to prevent accidents, you’re going to stop a kid from bringing a gun to school, either for protection or to show off, you’re going to stop some suicides,” said Fitzpatrick.

Grant Reeher, Director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at Syracuse University, said the amount of guns in the United States keeps growing. When it comes to homicides, he said money should be invested in programs in the places where gun crimes and gang violence happen the most.

“Particularly in poorer areas of cities,” Reeher added, “Those are the people that suffer the consequences of this most heavily. Again, that’s a big investment. You’re talking about social programs, you’re talking about job programs, you’re talking about criminal justice initiatives – those all cost a lot of money.”

Extended conversation with Grant Reeher on gun policy:

Attorney General James said that’s where she plans to put her focus. “We’ve got to take a gun out of a hand of an individual and you have to, again, provide it with something in return, something that addresses their felt needs. If their felt needs are housing, et cetera or employment we should be able to do that,” James explained.

While Syracuse’s gun issues won’t end with this program, leaders agree it’s a start.

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