February 21st, 2013
Bernalillo County officials arrived at a North Valley sheriff’s office substation Saturday morning to find 100 gun owners in line, eagerly awaiting their opportunity to get rid of unwanted and potentially dangerous weapons.
The turnout was so high that the $40,000 in Visa gift cards allotted for the gun buyback was quickly doled out over the course of two hours, and even then people kept showing up and disposing of firearms.
“It was way more successful than we had planned for,” said Pat Davis, chairman of Albuquerque Metro Crime Stoppers, which sponsored the event in conjunction with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office. “…We just lost count and got busy.”
At least 300 guns were turned over Saturday, Davis said, around 30 of which were forfeited for free. The weapons surrendered include at least seven assault weapons and a “Street Sweeper,” a revolving 12-gauge shotgun. Some guns will not be destroyed so that they can be used for training or if they’re antiques, Davis said. In addition to the weapons, two 2-square-foot boxes of ammunition were surrendered, along with two dozen highcapacity magazines, Davis said. Folks who stopped by to turn in their weapons got pre-paid gift cards valued at $100 for rifles, $150 for handguns and $200 for assault weapons, but Davis said the cards weren’t the main motivator behind the massive turnout, as was the case for the brother of the owner of the “Street Sweeper” shotgun.
“He said, ‘These belong to my brother, who has diminishing mental capacity,’” Davis said of his conversation with the man’s brother. “‘We’ve been worried for a long time about him being a weapon collector.’”
In two weeks, BSCO and Crime Stoppers will try to capitalize on the success of Saturday’s buyback. They hope to raise “twice the money in half the time” by seeking donations from local businesses in order to fund a buyback in the South Valley and perhaps even regular buybacks in the future.
“Can we make this happen?” Davis said. “Clearly, there’s an interest.”
The hundreds of people who waited in line during the seven-hour buyback were offered additional money from private buyers as they waited in line. Robert Murillo was selling six guns back through the event and was offered $50 more for the shotguns he hoped to get rid of, but he declined.
“I was worried,” Murillo said. “I don’t think you can sell it unless you know the (private buyers) are going to use them responsibly.”
Davis said the private buyers were acting within the law and estimated that 20 of the gun owners sold their weapons in line in lieu of a gift card.
“Most of the people who were approached said no,” he said. “(Private buyers) weren’t here in the spirit of the event.”
Some of the weapons sold to the county were stolen, Davis said, but the Sheriff’s Office will determine exactly how many early this week. Another chance
The second gun buyback event will take place Feb. 23 at the South Valley Area Command Substation, 2039 Isleta SW.
Story by Pat Lohman/Albuquerque Journal Staff writer