|HUD No. 00-50|
|Further Information:||For Release|
|In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685||Sunday|
|Or contact your local HUD office||March 12, 2000|
CUOMO SAYS HUD GUN BUYBACKS TO CONTINUE AFTER HOUSE COMMITTEE DROPS PLAN TO KILL THE INITIATIVE
WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo said today that HUD will continue funding gun buyback programs around the nation, after the House Appropriations Committee dropped plans to block nearly $2.6 million in HUD funds already awarded for buybacks of about 50,000 guns in 80 cities.
The Committee's action last week reverses its plans to pass legislation killing the HUD buyback funding. The action came amidst the Clinton Administration's efforts to win Congressional approval of measures to combat gun violence.
President Clinton praised HUD's gun buyback initiative in an interview aired Thursday on CNN. The President said: "I was just stunned to hear that there are a number of Republicans in the House of Representatives that want to stop us from doing the gun buyback program. I can't imagine why they want to stop that. A lot of cities with Republican mayors have done gun buyback programs. And its totally voluntary - you bring in a gun, you get a certain amount of money, you gather the guns up and you destroy them. You're taking that many out of circulation. So those are the kinds of things I think ought to be done."
Cuomo welcomed the Appropriations Committee decision to drop plans to pass legislation barring HUD funding of the gun buybacks.
"This is an important victory for a common-sense effort to reduce gun deaths and injuries," Cuomo said. "It is absurd to take millions of dollars away from our police departments, to interfere with their efforts to make our communities safer, and to let thousands of unwanted deadly weapons remain on our streets. No one is being forced to sell police their guns. This is a completely voluntary effort that deserves the support of everyone."
HUD approved $2.6 million in gun buyback funding earlier this year for the 80 cities under its Drug Elimination Grant Program, and plans to approve more funding in the future.
The buybacks, which are run by local police departments, have taken place so far in Louisville, KY and Watervliet, NY, with the rest scheduled to take place in the next few weeks and months.
Drug Elimination Grants fund a broad range of anti-drug and anti-crime initiatives in and around public housing.
Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York, whose husband was murdered and whose son was seriously wounded by a gunman on the Long Island Rail Road, spoke on the House floor Thursday in opposition to the attempt to halt HUD's gun buyback program.
"The daily gun violence in this country is a national problem," McCarthy said. "It calls for a national solution. The American people know that 13 children are killed every day by gun violence. Meanwhile the Congress does nothing.... Clearly, HUD Secretary Cuomo has the authority to conduct the buyback program."
Congresswoman Jan Schakowksy of Illinois said: "Every gun that we take off our streets could be a life saved. This is a common sense way of getting at least some of the guns out of our vulnerable communities. I applaud HUD for initiating this program and look forward to its full implementation."
The following expressed support for HUD's gun buyback initiative when it was announced last year: 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; 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 numerous housing authorities.
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.
HUD gun buyback funds will be used by housing authorities and police departments 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.
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 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.
In addition to removing guns from the community, the buyback initiative is designed to foster cooperation between local communities and law enforcement agencies, as well as to educate people regarding gun safety and responsible gun ownership.
The gun buyback initiative is one of several actions the Clinton Administration is pursuing to reduce deaths and injuries caused by guns each year across the nation.
Other parts of the Clinton Administration's gun safety agenda include:
- 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 the 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 activities 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 prosecutors at all levels of government, 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.
- Negotiations between the Clinton Administration and gun manufacturers, designed to make changes in the design, distribution and marketing of guns. If negotiations fail, HUD could support a class-action lawsuit by the nation's public housing authorities against gun manufacturers.