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Seattle gun buyback plan: Turn in your gun, get a $100 giftcard

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Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and County Executive Dow Constantine say there’s not much they can do about gun laws. Past efforts to ban firearms in parks have failed because they’re preempted by state laws. But they say they can revive an idea last tried in Seattle twenty years ago: a gun buyback program.

They hope to get hundreds of weapons off the streets with a privately-funded effort.

Turn in a handgun or rifle to Seattle authorities and you can get a $100 gift card from Amazon.com. If you have a gun classified as an assault weapon, they’ll give you $200.

The Internet retailer is the largest donor to the program, set up by the Seattle Police Foundation. Safeco and several other local businesses have all chipped in as well. So far they have $70,000 to use for the buyback.

It’s modeled after one in Los Angeles, where authorities last month collected 2,000 firearms in a single day.

“The process will be simple. No photos will be taken, no questions will be asked,” said Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, surrounded by a whose who of Seattle politics as they unveiled the program.

Local steel smelter Nucor will melt the weapons down after they’re collected. The first buyback will take place on Jan. 26 under an I-5 viaduct in downtown Seattle. Others are planned.

McGinn says the goal is do anything possible to prevent gun violence.

“This is just one tool in the toolbox. This isn’t going to solve our problems. But one gun tragedy averted is worth it,” McGinn said.

The Mayor says people may have unwanted guns in their homes, which can be stolen and used by criminals. Others might come from street kids eager to get a little extra cash.

A similar program in 1992 collected about 1200 guns in Seattle. Authorities here say if they can buy back more guns this time, it will send a powerful message.

David Lujano, an outreach worker with the YMCA’s Alive and Free program, attended the unveiling event. He thinks the buyback will work.

"Because there's many of the youth that are already on the path of doing good, but still facing struggles in the their communities. And I think this will help them and their friends to turn in their guns and just go on with life."

The Police Foundation says they’re still looking for corporate sponsors and donations so they can keep the program going.

It's possible to give back a weapon without getting a gift card. The foundation also offers gunlocks, free of charge. Contact your local police department for details.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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