A gun buyback program is in the works for the City of San Antonio. Two members of the San Antonio City Council are recommending the voluntary program but San Antonio’s police chief is against the idea.
The proposal calls for using money from the police department’s asset forfeiture fund to pay people who bring in guns. The plan would buy guns from anyone, not just San Antonio residents. The plan also suggests the guns brought in should be melted down.
It has the support of at least five members of the city council but not the support of the city’s police chief.
District 2 Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan, who represents the East Side, and District 9 Councilman John Courage from the city’s far North Side both introduced the plan at a press conference at SAPD headquarters Tuesday.
Andrews-Sullivan, who is a survivor of gun violence, said the program is meant to be voluntary.
“This initiative that is truly for those that want to get rid of the weapons within their home,” she said. “But most importantly if you have high caliber weapons, if you are looking to make sure they are disposed of properly.”
“We’re looking to take the weapons that we receive, melt them down and create some form of image that we can use to honor those that we have lost to gun violence as we continue to push forward,” Andrews-Sullivan added.
Texas has seen three violent mass shootings over the last three years.
“There are just thousands of people who are dying from gun violence every year, and it happens everywhere,” Courage said. “Most recently we saw it right here in Texas in El Paso, but we’ve also seen in also 35 miles south of San Antonio [in Sutherland Springs]. We’ve seen it in Santa Fe, Texas, and it goes all over the country.”
The person turning in the firearm can be anonymous. When asked if a stolen gun or a gun that was used in a crime were to be turned in, Courage said there would likely be methods to determine that.
“If we can identify a gun and there is a gun owner who has reported that gun who said, ‘This is the serial number,’ and we recover that, I would presume we would return that to the rightful gun owner,” Courage said. “This has nothing to do with keeping guns away from people who have the right and the authority to own a gun. It’s not a second amendment issue. It’s an issue of public safety.”
The plan would use up to 20% of the police department’s asset forfeiture fund to facilitate the buybacks.
“The police use that money for law enforcement purposes but I think this is about one of the best law enforcement purposes it could be used for,” Courage said. “I mean, how better to use money that’s been taken from criminals… than to get guns off the street?”
An exact dollar figure wasn’t available but Courage speculated it could be in the $250,000 range.
Both Sullivan and Courage said they hadn’t met with San Antonio Police Chief William McManus before making the announcement but had set up a future meeting with the chief. McManus was not present at the press conference.
In an emailed statement, McManus said he didn’t favor the idea of a gun buyback program.
“I have participated in gun buyback initiatives in the past, and I don’t believe this proposed plan is an effective use of the department’s resources,” McManus said. “While the concept behind this type of program is well-intended, there is no evidence to suggest that the programs are successful in reducing violent crime or getting weapons out of the hands of criminals. In fact, there are numerous studies that have confirmed that this type of program is largely ineffective.”
The plan was submitted via a Council Consideration Request. It’s a tool council members have to create new ordinances or programs in a fashion similar to submitting a bill at the Texas Legislature.
It must first be approved through one or a series of city council committees before being considered by the full city council.
The plan already has the support of District 4 Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia, District 8 Councilman Manny Peleaz and District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval, who signed on in support of the request.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg expressed his support of the initiative.
“Although we know gun buyback programs are not a complete solution, any reduction in the number of guns in circulation is an improvement,” Nirenberg said.