Despite community concerns, Richmond hopeful gun buyback program will reduce violence

Despite community concerns, Richmond hopeful gun buyback program will reduce violence
Posted at 9:45 AM, Aug 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-03 09:45:57-04

RICHMOND, Va. — As tackling gun violence remains a top priority in Richmond, Mayor Levar Stoney announced the city will launch a gun buyback program in an effort to reduce the availability of firearms.

“We have too many guns in the hands of too many people who should not possess those guns," Mayor Stoney said during a press conference Tuesday.

The program will allow people to trade in their guns for gift cards to stores including Walmart and Kroger, places the Mayor's Office noted do not sell guns.

The city is investing $63,000 into the one-day event which will take place at Liberation Church on Midlothian Turnpike on August 20.

The gift card value Richmonders will receive depends on the type of firearm they turn in.

  • $250 for an assault weapon
  • $200 for a handgun
  • $150 for a rifle
  • $25 for an inoperable gun

A supporter of the initiative, and founder of the non-profit Communities Against Crime, Charles Willis, previously told CBS 6 he hoped the city would offer more money than what firearms sell for on the black market in order to be successful.

Reporter Tyler Layne asked Mayor Stoney how the prices the city will pay compared to illegal transactions.

“Well first, Tyler, I’ve never bought an illegal gun, so I wouldn’t know the price of how much an illegal gun costs," the mayor responded. "However, we can compare the program to other programs across the nation and we are at the market level or above what other cities have done.”

Similar programs have been implemented in other cities across the country including some in Virginia. However, research into whether the efforts led to a reduction in gun violence remains unclear.

For that reason, Southside pastor and member of Richmonders Involved to Strengthen our Communities, Ralph Hodge, said he believed the programs were a "waste of resources."

"Gun buyback programs normally give the community the perception that they're doing something, but please do not do that with the expectation it's going to reduce violent crime," said Hodge.

Meanwhile, Pati Navalta, founder of the non-profit The Robby Poblete Foundation, which the city is partnering with to implement the program, said criticism stems from the program being hard to quantifiably measure.

"What I like to point to is the fact that we have no idea how many lives any of these guns could have [taken], but we know that when these guns are surrendered at a gun buyback, that probability drops to zero," Navalta said.

CBS 6 asked Mayor Stoney Tuesday if he has seen evidence that speaks to the effectiveness of a buyback program reducing violent crime.

"First, we'll remind you what our goal is: to get weapons off the street. There are far too many guns in the City of Richmond but also all across this country. There are more guns than people in the United States of America, and I venture to guess there are more guns than Richmonders in the City of Richmond. So any gun that we remove from the streets is a gun that will not be involved in the death of an individual in the City of Richmond," Stoney said.