Gun buy-back to start in Columbus

By The Associated Press

COLUMBUS — The Columbus Police Department will launch a gun buy-back program on Monday.

The Commercial Dispatch reports guns can be exchanged for cash payments at the Wal-Mart parking lot, Townsend Community Center, Sim Scott Park and the East Columbus Gym.

The first set of buyback dates are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.

The City Council approved the program at the recommendation of Mayor Robert Smith and Councilman Kabir Karriem.

Participants can anonymously swap guns for payments of $20 for BB guns or air pistols, $100 for hand guns, $200 for rifles or shotguns and $300 for military/assault rifles. City officials say the weapons will be destroyed.

“No one has to worry about selling the guns and putting them back in circulation,” Columbus Police Chief Selvain McQueen said.

There is one exception, McQueen said. “We will run the guns to see if they are stolen and try to get them back to their owners.”

There were 13 homicides in Columbus between 2008 and 2012, seven of them in 2011. Three of the crimes remain unsolved.

There have also been 160 arrests for aggravated assaults with a firearm in the same five-year period according to the police Department.

McQueen said he hopes the program will help reduce gun violence in Columbus.

The effectiveness of such programs is contested.

“They did that in Detroit and it’s still one of the most dangerous places on the planet to live,” said District Attorney Forrest Allgood.

Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus, also is a critic of gun buy-back programs.

“I personally think it will increase crime and gun thefts,” Chism said. “If thieves need some cash, they now know they can steal someone’s gun and exchange it for money.”