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Sherman Says: Buffalo’s gun buyback program should not be a campaign issue

BUFFALO — The current controversy, concerning Second Amendment rights, is not easily addressed. Although Americans have the right to bear arms, it has become obvious that not everyone should be given this opportunity.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown sponsored his sixth “No Questions Asked” gun buyback program on May 4, in an ongoing push to get illegal guns off the street. Individuals who surrender guns, through this program, are eliminating the means by which potential criminals could carry out violent crimes.

They are also keeping innocent people safe, from the dangers associated with having a weapon in the house. Any gun left where a child could find it presents a very serious threat, to that boy or girl. No one who is inadequately trained in firearms safety should ever be placed in a position to treat it like a toy.

The mayor’s program has merit. Last Saturday, 760 guns were turned over to Buffalo police, with no questions asked about their owners, their histories or their purposes. The 760 guns will be destroyed, with their shadowy pasts.

The city paid out $34,340 in prepaid cash cards, for the 760 guns. The cards were funded through a federal program, using money seized during drug investigations. Amounts ranged from $10 – $100, depending on the type of gun: $50 for rifles and shotguns; $75 for handguns and $100 for assault rifles.

But not everyone agrees with how the program operates. Critics chide police, for not taking the opportunity to trace ownership of the guns, an investigation that may lead back to robberies or other violent crimes.

I have also read objections from citizens who claim the cash paid out for old guns is simply rolled over, into purchasing new ones. If that’s true, universal background checks would provide a barrier to easy access to firearms. Background checks were rejected by a majority on Capitol Hill, last month, but that’s a different topic.

The buyback money could be used for purchasing drugs, alcohol or stolen property. It could also be used for purchasing baby formula, medicine, groceries, flowers, books or birthday cards.

A vocal opponent of Brown’s program, mayoral candidate Sergio Rodriguez, questioned the validity of the administration’s program.

“In the six years the program has been in place, the city’s crime rate has shot up. Homicides alone went up 40 percent, last year, and Forbes Magazine recently listed Buffalo as the 10th most dangerous city in America,” said Rodriguez in a press release.

“Not only does this program fail at preventing future crime; it fails to take advantage of an opportunity to solve past crimes, by destroying these guns before any research can be conducted. What this program lacks in crime prevention, it makes up for in publicity, for the mayor’s campaign, with his name prominently displayed on all billboards advertising the gun buyback program.”

It is a shame that a grassroots program created to make the city safer has to be turned into political gamesmanship. The mayor’s office reported that more than 3,700 guns have been surrendered, through the program, since it began in 2006. Buffalo Police Commissioner Dan Derenda said the city has reduced overall crime by nearly 20 percent since 2005, contradicting Rodriguez’s statement.

“A key focus of my administration will be working towards actual crime prevention and discontinuing programs that have proven ineffective and a waste of tax dollars,” Rodriguez noted.

The buyback program is a positive step, in making Buffalo safer. While politicians, at the state and federal level, will continue to haggle, about how guns can be purchased, who will be subjected to more intense screening and limits on the capacity of ammunition magazines, destroying unwanted weapons saves lives.

Programs that eliminate illegal guns deter crime, and should not be turned into a campaign issue in Buffalo, or anywhere else.

David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at


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