Pensacola City Council approves gun buyback program

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PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Gun buyback programs have long been used by city governments and police departments to get excess guns off the street and out of the hands of criminals.

The Pensacola City Council voted Thursday night on a new buyback program proposed by city councilman Delarian Wiggins. The Pensacola City Council has approved 7-0 the creation of a gun buyback initiative. Mayor Grover Robinson showed his support by adding an amendment which adds $10,000 from the mayor’s discretionary funds to go toward the initiative.

“If we take one gun and it prevents someone from being shot then I think the program is worth it,” Robinson said.

Wiggins said he decided to propose the program after hearing about a shooting last year where a teenage boy was shot in the middle of a parking lot. He said he believes a buyback program would help curb violence in Pensacola.

“We’re are certainly not trying to take away the guns of people who own them (legally),” Wiggins said Thursday afternoon. “This is about taking guns off the street from violent offenders.”

Wiggins said the program, if approved, would allow anyone with a gun to sell it to the Pensacola Police Department for cash or a gift card.

A monetary amount for each gun has yet to be determined. Pensacola city government would allocate resources in its budget to pay for the guns, Wiggins said.

Police would examine the guns to determine if they were involved in a crime or stolen. If not, the guns would be destroyed.

“I’m tired of seeing young men being gunned down in the middle of the road,” Wiggins said. “I want to make sure our community is safe.”

Not everyone in the area is excited about the possibility of a gun buyback program.

Don Martin, owner of Don’s Gun Shop near Ensley, said he doesn’t believe buyback programs are effective.

“Number one, the programs don’t work,” Martin said. “Number two, it puts people in fear that the government is trying to take away their guns.”

Martin said he does not believe the program can successfully collect guns from violent criminals. Rather, he said the program would encourage legal gun owners to give up guns used for protection.

“The bad guy is not turning in his guns,” he said. “So, you’re taking guns from people who need to protect themselves.”

A summary of research by the Harvard Kennedy School concluded while buyback programs raise awareness about gun violence, they were not as effective in reducing violent crime.

“They’ve done it in other states and the killings just kept going on,” Martin said. “The shootings just kept going on.”

While he knows there will be critics of the program, Wiggins said he is hopeful that the program will be successful. He said if there’s a chance it will help, the program should be approved.

“This program is to get the guns off the street and reduce the gun violence,” he said. “Is that the end all, be all? Absolutely not. But it’s a start.”

The Pensacola City Council meeting starts at 5:30 p.m.

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