PHOENIX – Residents of the nation’s sixth-largest city can get $100 gift cards for turning in handguns, rifles and shotguns and $200 for turning in assault weapons under an upcoming buyback program funded by an anonymous $100,000 donation.
Mayor Greg Stanton and other city officials held a news conference Tuesday to share details of the effort, which Stanton announced in his State of the City address February.
“Gun buybacks are a very positive thing in the community,” Stanton said. “They allow for unwanted weapons to get off the street, and that’s a positive thing for our Phoenix Police Department.”
The buyback events, offering gift cards to grocery and electronic stores, will take place the first three Saturdays in May in church parking lots in the South Mountain, Maryvale and Sunnyslope areas. Those turning in weapons will remain anonymous.
Besides weapons, residents can get $10-$25 gift cards for turning in high capacity magazines with weapons.
Stanton said the buyback program is funded by an anonymous donor who wanted to do something positive after the series of mass shootings last year, most recently in Newtown, Conn.
Arizonans for Gun Safety, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing gun violence and firearms accidents, is working with the City Council and Phoenix Police Department to organize the program.
The nonprofit’s president, Hildy Saizow, said the programs has two goals: giving the citizens the chance to get rid of weapons and improving gun safety in homes. She said her organization will be giving out free gun locks at every buyback.
“No, we will not stop random acts of violence, dramatically reduce gun deaths or even stop every shooting accident,” Saizow said.
But she said if the program can meet its two goals, it will save lives.
Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia said buyback programs may not reduce crime as a whole, but they give police an extra tool to stop it.
“The destruction of that weapon will end the weapon’s future and it may prevent a criminal offense from happening,” Garcia said.
Although the buyback program is anonymous, Cmdr. Mike Kurtenbach said police will check if the weapons were stolen or involved in crimes to either return to the owner or use as evidence. The rest of the weapons will be destroyed.
“We can rest assured that those weapons will never be used to commit a crime again, but it’s also important for us to know the history of that weapon,” he said.
Stanton said he knows this program won’t reduce crime, but he called it is valuable nonetheless.
“We know that to reduce crime in Phoenix, the best thing we can have is police officers committed to working their beat getting to know the neighborhood leaders …” Stanton said. “But we do believe this is a very positive thing for the future of a society.”