Local residents this month can get pre-paid Visa cards valued at up to $200 for every gun they turn in as part of a “buy-back” program announced by Bernalillo County and Albuquerque Metro Crime Stoppers.
The goal is to get unwanted weapons out of people’s homes, ensuring they aren’t stolen or the cause of an accident.
It’s anonymous, and the guns must be unloaded and operational.
County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley said the Sandy Hook school massacre and the killing of the Griego family locally make it a good time for people to ask whether the guns in their home are secured safely or needed at all.
Sheriff Dan Houston said the voluntary program should help law enforcement by getting unwanted guns out of people’s homes.
“We have a real problem with criminals obtaining their weapons through theft,” he said.
The events are scheduled Saturday and Feb. 23.
The county will offer pre-paid Visa cards of $100 for rifles or shotguns, $150 for handguns and $200 for high-capacity or assault weapons (semiautomatic, magazine-fed, military-style rifle or carbine). There’s no limit on the number of guns a person can turn in, though the county reserves the right to limit the amount of money someone gets for them.
“The community wants to see something done about gun violence,” said Pat Davis, chairman of the local Crime Stoppers, a group that offers rewards for tips to solve crime.
The county has set aside about $50,000 to start the program, and Crime Stoppers will work to find additional sponsors.
A sheriff’s deputy will be on hand during the buy-backs to ensure the firearms work and are unloaded. But the event is an “anonymous process in which individuals can surrender their weapons, no questions asked,” the county said in written statement.
The weapons will be checked later to see if they’re lost or stolen. If they are, they’ll be returned to the rightful owner. If not, they will be destroyed and perhaps used for scrap metal.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry is sponsoring a similar program, though the city doesn’t offer payment for surrendered firearms.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal