In response to the continuing, murder a week, cycle in Monroe many groups have been scratching their heads trying to do something to stem the violence.
One of those ways is to sponsor gun buy back programs; but do they really get the guns out of the hands of criminals?
On July 29 a local church made an effort to do something to stem the violence in our community by sponsoring a gun buy back program.
The idea is that anyone who turned in a gun could collect $50 for the weapon with no questions asked.
It was an amnesty approach wherein those who reported guns were promised that no action would be taken against a person on outstanding warrants if they came to report a weapon.
The buy back day was well intentioned and attracted an array of politicians and personalities who wanted to take a bow for the T.V. cameras. However, the program didn’t get many illegal guns off the street. In fact, it was prevented from getting illegal and stolen weapons off the street.
Buy Back program sponsors had to limit their activity to a “feel good” media show after they were informed by the police department that only “Legal” guns could be bought back. Illegal guns could not be bought back or amnesty promised because the guns may have been used in a crime or stolen.
That announcement was a deal breaker.
It is generally known that law abiding citizens who have legally acquired weapons are not the usual culprits in the rash of murders and shootings that have resulted in over 125 murder and attempted murder charges in our community over the last five years.
Some people paid as much as $600 for their weapons. They bought them for self protection against law breakers and violent criminals.
The idea that they would turn in a weapon they paid $600 for to receive $50 is amusing. It has been debunked across the country because buy backs never get the guns from the criminals; only the good guys.
Ouachita Parish Sheriff Jay Russell says many of the murders are being committed with weapons that have been stolen from homes in burglaries.
The suspects are usually teenagers who sell the guns on the street in exchange for cash, technology or favors. These are the guns that are being used in murders, but the local buy back program will not allow them to be turned in with amnesty.
The church that attempted the effort should be commended for at least trying something. However, everyone who is serious about really trying to make a buy back program work should consider the following.
—OPERATE BUY BACK PROGRAMS IN SECRET: If a crowd of politicians are standing around smiling for photographers and TV cameras are everywhere you turn, forget about any criminal turning in a weapon. What criminal wants to be caught on camera even showing up at such a spectacle? It means instant death back in the hood.
—ALLOW REAL AMNESTY FOR ILLEGAL WEAPONS: Offer an incentive that is difficult to refuse. What if the offer of amnesty included all non-violent crimes? Even if theft was involved, suppose amnesty was offered after restitution, if an ILLEGAL weapon was turned in? If that drop off exchange could be arranged much like a crime stopper’s tip, privately without notoriety, the guns would show up.
—DON’T OFFER ANYTHING FOR GUNS NOT REPORTED STOLEN OR OTHERWISE ILLEGAL: In gun buy backs everyone who has a broken gun, one that has been owned by a deceased person or acquired in otherwise legal ways are usually the ones reported. Don’t pay anything for broken guns; they don’t stop crime because they don’t shoot.
The buy back program is a good idea, but any church or group that wants to do it, must stay clear of politicians. Often they are not serious; they want to be seen.
When word is spread using the Crimestoppers approach, the hundreds of ILLEGAL guns will get off the street and the process will begin to work.
Until then, it’s just another media show.