Salt Lake City launches gun buyback program following deadly shootings

If Salt Lake City Council President Dan Dugan were successful, he would ask every member of Congress to walk into a room, lock the door, and only let them out after reforming the country’s policy in firearms material.

What angers him are the kinds of locations targeted in a string of recent mass shootings across the country: an elementary school in Texas, a grocery store in New York, a church in California and a hospital in Oklahoma.

“What we hear from some of our leaders is saying a prayer and asking for a moment of silence and waving our flags at half mast. That rings hollow to me because we do that every week now,” a- he declared. speaking sternly to a crowd at the International Peace Gardens in Salt Lake City, wearing an orange shirt on National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

“Our flags are still at half mast,” he added. “We always say a prayer and we always take a moment of silence. It gets us nowhere.”

As the gun reform debate continues to unfold nationally, leaders in Salt Lake City have decided to step in and do all they can to reduce the gun violence around them. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced a new city-sponsored gun buy-back program event to be held at the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building on June 11 — the first of its kind since the 1990s.

The first 200 people to voluntarily surrender their weapons will receive a gas gift card worth $100 for an assault rifle and $50 for any other type of weapon. The average price of gas in Salt Lake County is currently $4.79 per gallon, according to AAA.

“This program is simply an incentive. There are no prerequisites, of course,” said Mendenhall, wearing an orange shirt that read “Protect the kids, not the guns.” “It will, I believe, take some guns out of circulation. … Salt Lake City is committed to reducing violent crime. We are committed to it every day.”

The mayor thanks community organizer Jeanette Padilla for bringing the idea to the Salt Lake City mayor’s office. The idea for the city mirrors a program in Sacramento, California held two weeks agowhere 134 firearms were exchanged for all $50 gas cards purchased by the police department.

Mendenhall said his staff members and Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown immediately agreed with the plan as soon as it was presented. The Salt Lake City Police Foundation raised funds to launch the program.

Other cities have organized similar events. Mendenhall calls it a “great option” for people who don’t know what to do with guns they no longer need or fear they might be stolen. She cited an example from her own life: When her father died, her mother became insecure about the weapons he hunted with, especially with the children in the household at the time.

This is also not an uncommon scenario.

“I know this is something our agents encounter in Salt Lake City – family members not knowing what to do with what might be left at home,” she said.

As the effort comes in the wake of mass shootings across the country, Salt Lake Police Capt. Charli Goodman said police routinely face small acts of violence. It’s not just shootings; for example, a woman was recently assaulted with the butt of a gun the other day, she said.

Salt Lake police handled 668 total violent crime reports this year, down slightly from the first five months of 2021, but still 12.3% above the five-year average. They also handled 252 weapons cases. However, the department’s public data does not specify how many of these crimes are related to firearms.

Police have received more than 40 reports of gun thefts this year, according to Goodman.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that 45,222 people died from gun-related injuries in the United States in 2020. This figure is made up of 24,292 suicides, 19,384 homicides and 1,546 firearm deaths associated with police, unintentional or undetermined circumstances, as noted by the Pew Research Center.

“Gun violence can have a draining impact on a community and our police officers,” Goodman said. “As police officers, we have seen the damage done by senseless acts of gun violence.”

City and community leaders also called on federal leaders to consider options such as new age requirements, stricter background checks and bans on certain types of firearms on Friday, but hope that a buy-back program will also help reduce gun crime in the city.

The event will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 11. Police ask that all weapons be unloaded and use a holster or padlock if possible. All participants will be asked if their gun is safe and unloaded, and where it is. Gift cards are limited to one per person.

“There are a lot of scenarios (to return a gun) and we’re not going to ask questions or judge,” Mendenhall said. “Just bring your guns and enjoy a $50 gift card while you’re at it.”

Ryan H. Bowman