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HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 99-185
Further Information:For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685Thursday
Or contact your local HUD officeSeptember 9, 1999


WASHINGTON - President Clinton today announced a $15 million violence-prevention initiative to launch the largest gun buyback program in American history, enabling police departments to purchase up to 300,000 guns from people around the country.

"This national buyback initiative is designed to reduce gun violence and protect families from senseless gun tragedies," President Clinton said. "Each gun we buy back is one less gun on the nation's streets."

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo, whose department will fund the gun buybacks that were announced by the President, said: "Guns kill and injure people every day in crimes, in accidents, and in suicides. Buying back guns will save lives and will help build strong partnerships between police and people in communities to work together to reduce gun violence."

Under the initiative announced today, HUD funds will go to police departments to be used to buy back guns for a suggested price of $50 each - either in cash or in the form of gift certificates for food, toys, or other goods. At $50 apiece, police could buy 300,000 guns with $15 million in HUD funds.

HUD will also provide funds to help administer the buybacks and to study the effectiveness of gun buyback programs, and could provide funding to more police departments in the future if the pilot initiative is expanded.

Each police department participating in the initiative will be eligible to get up to $500,000 in HUD funds - enough to purchase up to 10,000 guns in a city. While some large cities are expected to seek maximum funding, smaller cities are expected to operate smaller buyback programs.

Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, who is President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, attended the White House announcement and expressed the group's support for the gun buyback initiative and the other anti-gun violence measures supported by President Clinton.

"The murder, the mayhem, the senseless deaths of our children and the ridiculous proliferation of firearms on the streets of American cities needs to stop," Webb said. "Gun buybacks are an important step, combined with tougher gun laws, to make our cities safer."

The following also expressed support today for HUD's gun buyback initiative: Senator Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, Ranking Member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee; Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee and a Member of the VA-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee; Senator Barbara Boxer of California, Member of the Budget Committee; Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island; Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York, whose husband was murdered and whose son was badly wounded in a shooting on the Long Island Rail Road; Handgun Control, Inc.; the National Education Association; Physicians for Social Responsibility; the American Public Health Association; the Educational Fund to End Handgun Violence; the National Association of African Americans in Housing; and officials from the Housing Authority of Baltimore City and the Housing Authority of New Orleans.

Several cities around the country have conducted gun buyback programs in recent years, but none has even come close to purchasing 300,000 guns. These local buyback programs have collected anywhere from a few dozen to a few thousand guns.

The gun buyback initiative was one of several steps President Clinton announced at a White House event today with mayors and police chiefs from around the nation. Cuomo, Attorney General Janet Reno, and Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers also attended the event, in which the President urged Congress to pass a bipartisan juvenile crime bill that would offer greater protection against gun violence. The legislation, which has been passed by the Senate, would close the gun show loophole by mandating a background check for anyone buying a firearm at a gun show, require child safety locks for guns, and bar the importation of large-capacity ammunition clips.

The buybacks are designed to reduce the toll of gun violence, which each week claims an average of 600 lives and injures another 1,800 people in crimes, accidents and suicides around the United States.

To reduce the availability of guns, all guns purchased with HUD funds will destroyed, unless it is determined that a gun was stolen or is needed for an ongoing law enforcement investigation. Stolen weapons will be returned to their lawful owners.

The initiative will begin distributing funds to police departments in late November, in time to enable families to replace guns with cash and gift certificates during the holiday season.

HUD will encourage police departments to work with local retailers to provide further incentives, such as special discounts on items purchased with a gun buyback gift certificate.

The basic premise of the gun buybacks is to give people the opportunity, for a limited period of time, to exchange their guns for something of value with no questions asked. There are variations on the inducements offered, but the most successful programs offer money, some type of vouchers or tickets, or food coupons in exchange for weapons.

HUD will use funding from its Drug Elimination Grant Program for the gun buyback initiative. Drug Elimination Grants are used to combat crime in and around public housing developments around the nation.

Police Departments will work in partnership with housing authorities to participate in the gun buyback initiative. Housing authorities will distribute the HUD funds to local police departments to conduct the buybacks.


Senator Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, Ranking Member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee: "HUD's Gun Buyback Violence Reduction Initiative is an investment in getting guns off the streets, out of public housing and protecting the lives of adults and children alike. It is a small price to pay for the improved health, safety and well-being of our citizens living in public housing and surrounding communities, instead of paying an even higher price for the medical treatment of the victims of gun crime, caring for children whose parents have been lost to gun violence, and funding the law enforcement efforts needed to investigate and prosecute violent criminals."

Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee and a Member of the VA-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee: Guns in our inner cities are exacting an awful toll. Families are being torn apart, young lives are being stolen, and communities are living in a state of constant fear. HUD's gun buyback program is the sort of aggressive, innovative program that we need to help put a stop to gun violence. This HUD initiative fits well with the crime-fighting goals I envisioned when I wrote the Drug Elimination Grant legislation in 1988."

Senator Barbara Boxer of California, Member of the Budget Committee: "There are nearly 250 million guns in America today. That's almost one for every man, woman, and child in this country. And that's why many local law enforcement officials now consider getting guns off the streets their top priority in reducing crime. I am pleased that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is providing grants to establish local gun buyback programs across the country. This is not a cure for gun violence, but it is a start at helping to keep guns out of the wrong hands and helping local police make our streets safer."

Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island: "On their own initiative, communities across the country have launched successful buyback programs to rid themselves of guns and to reduce the senseless violence in their daily lives. I commend HUD for learning from these successes and for helping other communities implement effective buyback programs."

Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York, whose husband was shot to death and whose son was badly wounded on the Long Island Rail Road: "I commend Secretary Cuomo and the Department of Housing and Urban Development for implementing the Gun Buyback Violence Reduction Initiative. Each gun we buy back is one less gun on the street. What is vital about this program is that guns will be destroyed - not put back in the circle of violence."

Sarah Brady, Chair of Handgun Control, Inc.: "We support every effort to reduce the number of guns on the streets of our communities. This program demonstrates that HUD understands that easily accessible guns are one of the biggest problems facing the residents of public housing across America. HUD is making an important national commitment to keeping guns out of the wrong hands, especially kids and criminals."

Bob Chase, President of the National Education Association: "There is no single answer to preventing gun violence and keeping our children safe. Voluntary gun buyback programs that provide a means to get some of the weapons off the streets and out of children's homes are a step toward providing our young people with a safe and healthy environment in which to grow and learn."

Arinn Dixon, Associate Director of Policy for Violence Prevention, Physicians for Social Responsibility: "Reducing the number of guns on the street is essential to curbing the epidemic of gun violence in the country. Each gun turned in to a buyback program is one that won't be used to commit a crime, attempt a suicide, or kill unintentionally - it's a gun that won't ever fall into the wrong hands."

Joshua Horwitz, Executive Director of the Educational Fund to End Handgun Violence: "Gun buybacks provide an excellent way for communities to draw attention to the problem of gun violence, which is fueled by the widespread, easy availability of firearms. Gun buybacks are also a catalyst for local communities and neighborhood organizations to work with law enforcement in a collaborative manner. These collaborations can lead to long-term reductions in gun violence."

Dr. Mohammad N. Akhter, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association: "Removing guns from our streets is long overdue; it's a big step toward reducing the level of violence in our communities. HUD is pioneering a new approach. In addition to improving housing opportunities for our citizens, the agency is now taking steps to ensure that both the homes and communities in which we live are safe."

Kevin E. Marchman, President of the National Organization of African-Americans in Housing: "The tragedies in public and private housing that can be traced to the use of firearms show that carefully conducted gun buyback programs can protect the lives of innocent victims of gun accidents and crimes."

Michael Kelly, Executive Director of the Housing Authority of New Orleans: "At the New Orleans Housing Authority, we are beginning to turn the corner on crime and violence in public housing. In concert with similar efforts in other cities, gun buyback initiatives give staff and residents added courage and support to go over the top in continuing to address these serious problems."

Daniel P. Henson III, Commissioner of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City: "The anecdotal evidence from Baltimore shows that gun buybacks have been very helpful in reducing crime. There is no doubt that when the number of weapons in a community decreases, there is a corresponding reduction in the use of weapons to commit acts of violence. This is particularly true in domestic situations. However, in the past we have had limited funds to maximize the potential of gun buyback initiatives. I look forward to the opportunity to explore more fully the relationship between the availability of guns and gun violence."


Here are summaries, taken from news accounts, of some gun buyback programs around the country conducted this year.


LOS ANGELES - July 1 - Some 100 students at El Sereno Middle School in East Los Angeles went door-to-door selling candy and raised $4,000 for a gun buy-back program in the area, where gun violence is a serious problem.


WASHINGTON -August 26 - Two recently concluded gun buyback programs in the District of Columbia have led to calls for a national buyback program. The first focused on public housing complexes in the city's sixth district and collected 602 guns. The second was a two-day citywide program that netted 2,306 firearms.


LEESBURG - July 31-- Beginning August 7t, the City will pay $25 for any gun handed over by Leesburg residents. "This program is to allow the citizens of our community the opportunity to get rid of any unwanted guns they may have in their home," said Police Corporal Pernell Mitchell. "A lot of accidents with kids and guns have happened inside the home."


ATLANTA - May 29 - The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is reviving its gun buyback program after a two- year hiatus. Since the buybacks began in 1993, the SCLC has spent $480,000 to purchase 10,000 guns. Some people refused money, saying they just wanted to get the guns off the street or out of their homes


SOUTH BEND - August 8 - "People do kill people," concluded an editorial in The South Bend Tribune. "But guns, with an efficiency that robs victims of any chance of self-preservation, give remorseless or demented people the power to terrorize society. Thanks to the St. Joseph Regional Health Center's gun buyback" - which collected 177 weapons - "there is a little less of that power on the streets of South Bend."


BROOKLYN - June - District Attorney Charles J. Hynes has launched a guns-for-cash program called "Turn it In for a Benjamin," referring to Benjamin Franklin, whose portrait appears on the $100 bill. After quickly collecting more than 650 guns, the program was expanded citywide. "659 guns off the street reduces the opportunity for a lot of death and injury," said Hynes.


DAYTON - June 1 - The parents of a student gunned down at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in April shook the hands of Dayton residents standing in line to sell guns back to the police. Police collected about 150 guns in four hours. "If we can keep getting these kinds of crowds, we just might be able to make a change," said the father, Michael Shoels.


NORTH PROVIDENCE - August 1 - Just one day after the first murder in North Providence in five years, the town's first gun buyback netted 105 guns, purchased at $25 each.


KENOSHA - May 11 - Some 174 firearms were surrendered to Kenosha law enforcement officials in return for gift certificates and cash, the most successful buyback in the City's history.

RACINE - June 13 - The Racine Interfaith Coalition collected 107 guns in return for $50 and $100 gift certificates at a local mall. Seven of the weapons collected were illegal. Last December, the Coalition bought back 132 guns. .

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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