Given the preemptive authority of state and federal law, there's not a lot that local officials can do to curb gun violence and promote firearm safety. But in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre and other tragic shootings nationwide, Seattle area officials are determined to do all they can.
At a press conference this morning at Seattle's Mount Zion Baptist Church, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and a host of government and community leaders announced a new Gun Safety Initiative featuring Seattle's first gun buyback program since 1992, and the distribution of free trigger locks. The initiative will be funded entirely through private donations, including $30,000 from online retailer Amazon and $25,000 from the Seattle Police Foundation.
“This gun buyback program can help us protect public health and safety and reduce gun violence in our communities,” McGinn said in a press release. “If we can prevent just one child, one innocent bystander, from being the victim of a random accident, or the target of an unstable person, it will be well worth our time and effort,” added Constantine.
The first gun buyback event will be held Saturday, January 26, from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, in the parking lot underneath Interstate 5 between Cherry and James Streets. Subsequent events will take place at locations throughout the county.
Modeled on successful programs in Los Angeles and other cities, participants will receive gift cards valued up to $100 for surrendering handguns, rifles, and shotguns, and up to $200 for an assault weapon. The no-questions-asked buyback program will be coordinated by the Seattle Police Foundation, and the process will be totally anonymous: no pictures will be taken of participants, no license plates will be written down, and no ballistics tests will be conducted on surrendered weapons. Unwanted ammunition will also be collected.
Efforts will be made to return lost or stolen weapons to their rightful owners—the rest will be melted down by Nucor Steel, which is donating its services free of charge.
And in an effort to further reduce the incidence of accidental shootings, the Seattle Police Department will also be distributing free trigger locks to gun owners seeking to safely secure their weapons. Trigger locks will be made available at all five SPD precincts during normal business hours.(Update: trigger lock distribution details have yet to be finalized.)
Gun buyback critics argue that they do little to measurably decrease the total rate of gun violence, but Kurt Geissel, the owner of Seattle's Café Racer, where a tragic shooting took place last year, argues that doing anything is better than doing nothing. "Honestly, I just want to do something to help," says Geissel. "Anything we can do to put a positive on what happened... at least it's not a total loss."
"If one person throws away a gun and says this isn't a solution, then we're doing good," says Geissel.
In addition to Amazon and the Seattle Police Foundation, other financial sponsors include local SEO and social media monitoring company SEOmoz ($10,000), PEMCO Insurance ($5,000), Eli Lilly ($1,500) and the 5 Point Café ($500). Community partners include, Café Racer, the Mount Zion Baptist Church, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, and the Associated Recreation Council.
But given the popularity of gun buybacks in other cities, the program's initial funding is likely still far short of total demand. City and county officials are seeking additional private and corporate sponsors, and the Seattle Police Foundation is soliciting direct donations. You can donate directly from the foundation's website, and specify "gun buyback" in the provided field.
"You can do something, even if it's a small thing, whether financially or throwing away some guns or ammo," encourages Geissel. "You never know what might happen."