Collectively touting it as "one tool in the toolbox" against gun violence, a collection of Seattle mayors past and present along with King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Police Deputy Chief Nick Metz, Dr. David Fleming of Public Health Seattle & King County, Renee Hopkins of the Seattle Police Foundation and Reverend Aaron Williams of Seattle's Mount Zion Baptist Church today announced the launch of a Seattle and King County gun buyback program. The effort is part of a larger endeavor aimed at reducing gun violence that's going under the header "Gun Safety Initiative."
With former Seattle mayors Greg Nickels, Norm Rice, Charles Royer and Wes Uhlman acting as co-chairs of the program, the Gun Safety Initiative aims to be an "expression of what our community our believes," according to McGinn, as well as the "beginning of a dialogue" about guns and what can be done to make our communities safer.
Specifically, with the help of sponsors like Amazon, PEMCO, the 5 Point Café and Big Mario's Pizza, the gun buyback program will offer $100 Amazon gift cards for handguns, shotguns and rifles, and up to $200 gift cards for assault weapons. With the first gun buyback planned for Saturday, Jan. 26 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the parking lot underneath Interstate 5 between Cherry and James Streets, officials say all guns will be accepted anonymously and no photos will be taken. Once collected, the guns will be melted down, with the metal used to create "something symbolic," according to McGinn.
So far the gun buyback program has collected $70,000 in contributions toward the gift cards, with a goal of $100,000 according to McGinn.
"This is not the solution. It is a tool in the toolbox," said McGinn of the buyback program when pressed by media members on the expected effectiveness of the plan. "We think it's a useful tool. ... It does, in fact, have an effect on the guns on the street."
"I reject the cynicism," said Constantine when posed with the same question. "[It] gets to the problem of a particular gun."
As was noted several times during this morning's press conference, Seattle last held a gun buyback program in 1992 during the tenure of Mayor Norm Rice. Though that program ran out of money and eventually fizzled, Rice said this morning that the effects were still tangible and this renewed effort can reach even further.
"The gravity of what we've seen over the last year tells us something needs to be done," explained Rice, saying such an endeavor can create a "ripple effect," and become a "confidence builder" in the community.
[The gun buyback program] says that you care," said Rice. "That's compelling."
Statements are nice, of course, but just how much actual impact will the new gun buyback program have on the street? That's the question everyone wanted an answer to this morning - and one, predictably, that couldn't be precisely quantified at this point.
"Which one thing did what? Any researcher is going to have a hard time pulling that out," said McGinn of tracking the effectiveness of the gun buyback program and Seattle's other gun violence prevention measures. "We can make a difference."
With $70,000 to play with so far - and offering $100 and $200 gift cards - simple math suggests the gun buyback program will only be capable of minimally reducing the number of actual guns on the street. And many of the guns will no doubt come from the homes of law abiding citizens. These are points everyone gathered on stage during this morning's press conference was prepared to answer, doing so in terms that are hard to argue with, even by the most dogged reporter.
"If it's a tiny fraction, it's still many lives that could be saved," said Metz.
Find the joint press release issued by King County and the City of Seattle announcing the Gun Safety Initiative on the following page ...
Here's the press release:
Seattle and King County to launch Gun Safety Initiative
First gun buyback program in 20 years to take place later this month
SEATTLE - Mayor Mike McGinn, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Police Deputy Chief Nick Metz, Dr. David Fleming of Public Health - Seattle & King County, Renee Hopkins of the Seattle Police Foundation, and Reverend Aaron Williams of Seattle's Mount Zion Baptist Church today announced a new Gun Safety Initiative, including a gun buyback program. Former Seattle mayors Greg Nickels, Norm Rice, Charles Royer and Wes Uhlman are serving as co-chairs of the program.
The countywide gun buyback initiative will provide a monetary incentive to individuals who turn in firearms, while engaging our communities toward a common goal of reducing gun violence. The first gun buyback will be held on Saturday, January 26, 2013, from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, in downtown Seattle in the parking lot underneath Interstate 5 between Cherry and James Streets.
"This gun buyback program can help us protect public health and safety and reduce gun violence in our communities," said McGinn. "We will continue working with the police department and other organizations and agencies on a broad range of solutions to the epidemic of gun violence. I want to thank Amazon, PEMCO, the 5 Point Café and Big Mario's Pizza, SEOMoz, and other sponsors who are making this program possible. "
"If we can prevent just one child, one innocent bystander, from being the victim of a random accident, or the target of an unstable person, it will be well worth our time and effort," said King County Executive Dow Constantine.
"This is an opportunity for people to get unwanted guns out of their homes. We hope that people will take advantage of this opportunity to safely dispose of those unwanted, unused, and forgotten guns that we know are lying around. If this prevents just one tragedy, it is worth the effort." Chief Metz
"The Sheriff's Office remains committed to providing a safe place for citizens to turn in guns they no longer want. It is a much better choice to remove an unwanted gun from your home than to leave it where it can be stolen and used in a crime," said King County Sheriff John Urquhart.
"The Seattle Police Foundation is proud to partner with the Seattle Police Department and many other community partners to improve the safety of our community by removing unwanted guns, helping ensure wanted guns are safely secured and providing vital gun safety educational information to our community," said Renee Hopkins, executive director of the Seattle Police Foundation.
In partnership with the Seattle Police Department, other law enforcement agencies in King County, community and faith based organizations, the gun buyback effort will set up locations throughout Seattle and King County where individuals can turn in firearms anonymously, with no questions asked.
Modeled on successful gun buyback programs across the country, the Seattle/King County gun buyback program will consist of an anonymous process in which individuals can turn in their unwanted weapons. Law enforcement officials will not be taking pictures of participants, nor will they be logging license plate numbers or running ballistic tests on the guns that are turned in. In exchange for dropping off a weapon, individuals will receive a gift card valued at up to $100.00 for hand guns, shotguns, & rifles, and up to $200.00 for assault weapons (as classified in the State of Washington).
The Seattle Police Department will also be distributing trigger locks for those who wish to secure their firearms safely. These will be available at each of the five precincts during normal business hours.
The Seattle Police Foundation has committed $25,000 to the Gun Safety Initiative, and will serve as the program coordinator. Corporate sponsors include Amazon, which has committed $30,000 in gift cards that will serve as a monetary incentive for those turning in a gun. PEMCO has contributed $5,000, and SEOmoz, a Seattle-based search engine and social optimization software company, has contributed $10,000, and the 5 Point Café and Big Mario's Pizza has contributed $500. Their funding, along with that of the Seattle Police Foundation, will go toward the purchase of gift cards from other local vendors besides Amazon. Eli Lilly has contributed $1,500 in advertising. Nucor Steel has agreed to make an in-kind contribution and will melt down the guns turned in. The Seattle Police Foundation will continue to solicit contributions to support the gun buyback effort.
Community partners of the gun buyback effort include the Associated Recreation Council, Café Racer, Mount Zion Baptist Church, and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.
The Seattle Police Department last held a gun buyback program in 1992. Members of the public interested in donating to support the program can do so online via the Seattle Police Foundation website at http://www.seattlepolicefoundation.org.