HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 00-188
Further Information: For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685 Sunday
Or contact your local HUD office July 30, 2000


WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo today announced the Department will move forward with its precedent setting gun BuyBack America program, despite Congressional attempts to halt the initiative.

The announcement means that HUD will move forward in processing applications for additional communities that have expressed interest in the gun buyback initiative. These communities will join a program that is clearly working. During the first few months of HUD's buyback program, 70 cities have used HUD funding to purchase over 17,000 guns. Today's announcement brings the total of communities participating to nearly 100. The program admits applicants on a rolling basis and HUD continues to receive applications.

President Clinton initially announced HUD's buyback initiative, Buyback America, in September 1999. The buyback program is an unprecedented initiative designed to reduce the toll of gun violence that claims an average of 30,000 lives and wounds another 100,000 people each year in the United States.

This Spring, during Congressional debate over a supplemental appropriations bill, Congressional opponents of gun buybacks proposed language to expressly bar HUD from continuing its buyback initiative. That language was withdrawn, but opponents of buybacks subsequently asserted that HUD lacked the legal authority to support local communities in their gun buyback efforts and should therefore stop the initiative. HUD's Office of General Counsel and the Administration's Office of Management and Budget have both since reviewed this question, and have concluded that HUD has authority to continue to respond to requests from local communities for funding of gun buybacks. Given HUD's clear authority, stopping this program would require legislation.

"BuyBack America saves lives by taking unwanted guns out of circulation," Cuomo said. "Today, thanks to this historic partnership between police departments and housing authorities, there are literally thousands and thousands of unwanted guns that no longer pose a risk to our nation's communities. The success of BuyBack America means that fewer gun tragedies will occur, and lives will be saved." "I commend President Clinton and Secretary Cuomo for their courage in insisting upon the continuation of this important program. It is unconscionable for this Congress to refuse to act upon sensible gun safety legislation and to try to prohibit the Department of Housing and Urban Development from doing what it can to protect citizens living in its housing," said Sarah Brady, Chair of Handgun Control.

New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg said, "I applaud Secretary Cuomo and the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the BuyBack program. This initiative makes sense, makes a difference and helps prevent gun violence, and I will work with my colleagues in Congress and Secretary Cuomo to ensure that this vital program continues." Lautenberg authored the Public Housing Drug Elimination Act which authorizes HUD's gun buyback program.

Police departments and public housing authorities participating in Buyback America use funds from HUD's crime-fighting Drug Elimination Grant Program to take guns off the street. HUD suggests a buyback price of $50 for each gun. In addition, businesses are encouraged to donate gift certificates for food, toys, and other goods to individuals turning in guns. HUD provides an additional 43 cents in matching funds for every $1 in HUD Drug Elimination Grant funds housing authorities set aside for a gun buyback.

The events are getting enthusiastic support in communities across the nation. "Albany's gun buy-back program has had tremendous community support," said Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings. "I believe that gun buy-back programs serve a valuable function, in removing guns from the streets of our cities. I applaud HUD's continued efforts to enable cities around the country to do gun buy-backs."

Buyback America is designed to give individuals the chance, for a limited period of time, to exchange their guns anonymously for something of value. All guns bought with HUD funds are destroyed, in order to reduce the number of guns in circulation, unless authorities determine a gun was stolen or used in the commission of a crime. Weapons which turn out to have been stolen are returned to their lawful owners.

"Houston's recent gun buy-back day was overwhelmingly successful - we were able to take 779 guns, plus nearly 3,700 rounds of ammunition, off the streets. Some of the guns, we later learned, had been stolen," said Houston Mayor Lee Brown. "Having spent my career in law enforcement, I recognize that gun buy-backs are a very effective way of reducing the number of guns in circulation. If even one life is saved this way, it's worth it."

Other parts of the Clinton Administration's gun safety agenda include:

  • HUD and the Department of the Treasury signed an historic agreement with Smith & Wesson in March to implement a "code of conduct" that will increase gun safety and keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children.

  • A $30 million Community Gun Safety and Violence Reduction Initiative that President Clinton proposed in his Fiscal Year 2001 Budget. The initiative, which would be administered by HUD, would fund computerized mapping of gun violence to help law enforcement agencies better protect the public, education and outreach programs to promote responsible safety measures by gun owners, and innovative community activities to reduce both gun crimes and accidents. If Congress approves funding for this initiative, local governments, law enforcement agencies, public housing authorities, community organizations, and other groups would be eligible to compete for HUD grants to support gun violence reduction initiatives in the communities the Department serves.

  • A $280 million national firearms enforcement initiative that is also part of the President's proposed budget. The initiative would hire 500 new ATF agents and inspectors to target gun criminals, hire more than 1,000 federal, state and local gun prosecutors, fund new gun tracing and ballistics testing systems to catch more gun criminals, fund local media campaigns to discourage gun violence, and expand the development of "smart gun" technologies.

  • The President has called on Congress to enact the gun safety legislation passed by the Senate last year, which would curtail access to illegal guns and help prevent gun violence by closing the gun show loophole, mandating child safety locks with every handgun sold, banning the importation of high-capacity ammunition clips and barring the most violent juvenile offenders from ever possessing firearms as adults.


July 30, 2000

I am pleased that Secretary Cuomo and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are moving forward with its successful Gun Buyback Initiative. By teaming up law enforcement, local authorities, and citizens in the fight to reduce gun violence, the HUD Gun Buyback Program has already helped remove over 17,000 guns from our communities. Today's announcement that Buyback America will continue will ensure the removal of thousands more guns, preventing an untold number of gun accidents, suicides and crimes. Despite HUD's clear authority to carry out this important program, the gun lobby and other opponents of common sense gun safety measures continue to challenge this initiative. We remain committed to carrying out Buyback America, and I call on HUD to continue to offer this vital assistance to communities seeking our support in addressing their local gun violence problems.

HUD's gun buybacks are an important part of my Administration's comprehensive strategy to reduce gun violence in America. While we are making progress in this fight, gun violence remains far too high. Congress can do its part by finally passing the stalled common sense gun safety legislation to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children, and fully funding my $280 million Gun Enforcement Initiative to crack down on gun criminals. Congress should put the public safety interests of American families above those of the gun lobby and support these efforts instead of working to undermine them. If we work together, we can continue to bring down gun crime, reduce gun violence, and save lives.


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