The Albuquerque Metro Crime Stoppers and the Albuquerque Police Department hosted a gun buyback event on Saturday afternoon, collecting a total of 415 guns.
“This is one part of our multi-pronged effort to reduce gun violence in Albuquerque,” Mayor Tim Keller said in a press release after the event. “As police work to keep people safe, we also need support from law-abiding citizens who are often targeted by thieves. This successful gun buyback event gave people a safe way to dispose of unwanted firearms while taking those guns out of circulation.”
In the style of a fast-food drive-thru, hundreds of people showed up to turned over handguns, shotguns and rifles for $75 and assault rifles for $100. APD paid cash for the guns, which according Councilman Pat Davis, district 2, will be turned into an art installation. Davis said the logistics of this project are still being developed, but added that the art installation would focus on gun violence.
The event was funded by Davis’ community enhancement previously set-aside funds. Each term, counselors have access to $1 million to fund “pork” project in their districts. In this case, Davis gave Crimestoppers $30,000 for the event, according to Gilbert Gallegos, APD’s Director of Communication and Community Outreach.
Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace showed up earlier to Saturday's buyback for two reasons. First, he said he wanted to turn over a handgun he didn’t want, and second, he wanted to see if the buyback was complying with the controversial Senate Bill 8, which made the private sale of guns without a background check illegal in New Mexico.
“What makes this any different from the average law-abiding citizen that wants to get rid of used, unwanted weapons? Why does the law not apply to this group when it applies to a private citizen,” Mace told the Daily Lobo.
Lt. Dennis Tafoya said Saturday's buyback did not constitute a private sale because the guns were not being bought by APD or by Crime Stoppers. He said guns were being turned over on a voluntary basis and were set to be destroyed, therefore the buyback did not violate the background check law that went into effect on July 1.
Saturday’s event was not the first buyback the city has seen.
In 2013, Crime Stoppers and Bernalillo County hosted a similar event handing out pre-paid gift cards for unwanted guns. Davis, who was the chairman of Crime Stoppers at the time, said that the event collected over 500 guns, mostly from grandparents who were fearful their grandchildren would get hold of the guns.
That was one of the reasons Carl Whittman — a retired police officer — was turning over an old pistol and rifle that jams. Whittman said he didn’t want those old guns in the house with his grandkids. The other reason, Whittman said, was that he had special plans for the cash.
“I live in Grants and I like to come out here (to Albuquerque) to shop. I was gonna go to Cabelas actually and buy me a new gun,” Whittman said.
Davis said he’d like to see other councilors and the Mayor use their discretionary funds to do a buyback in other parts of the city. Whoever funds, another buyback was highly likely according to Tafoya.
Justin Garcia is the editor in chief for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Just516Garc.