Mayor Sylvester Turner, City Officials, Harris County and Congressional Leaders Announce Second Gun Buyback Event on October 8th
On Saturday, July 30th, the city of Houston held its first-ever gun buyback initiative in the parking lot of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, with the primary focus of getting the excessive number of guns off the streets of Houston.
What started off as a low-expectation effort by organizers, turned out to be one of the most successful gun buyback efforts in the history of the United States.
The original time for the first Gun BuyBack Operation was from 8 a.m.-12 Noon, but HPD stayed longer and collected firearms until around 7 p.m. because of the overwhelming response. At some points throughout the day, the line was over two miles long, as individuals waiting in the vehicles to exchange their firearms for a gift card.
During the first gun buyback initiative, the Houston Police Department (HPD) collected a total of 793 guns, including 281 long guns, and 512 pistols. HPD also had to give priority vouchers to 150 additional people who were turned away because of the long lines and the wait time.
Because of the tremendous response and success of the first initiative, the city of Houston has announced it will be doing a second gun buyback initiative on October 8th at the METRO Park & Ride, located at 11050 Harwin Drive, between 8 a.m.-12 Noon.
This past Monday, September 26th, Mayor Sylvester Turner held a joint press conference with city, county, community, and Congressional leaders to announce the details of the next gun buyback as part of the One Safe Houston initiative.
The Mayor gave remarks, along with U.S. Representative Al Green (TX-9), U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), Harris County Precinct One Commissioner Rodney Ellis, City Council Member Tiffany Thomas (District F), HPD Chief Troy Finner, and METRO Chair Sanjay Ramabhadran.
“The guns that were turned in will never be stolen, or used in the commission of a crime, suicide, or an accidental shooting of a child,” said Mayor Turner. “Our goal is the same for the second event as it was for the first, and that is to get guns off the street.”
Having learned some lessons from the first event, this second one will provide more resources to respond to the demand from the public and the process has been tweaked to ensure more efficiency with the collection of the guns.
“There were some lessons learned from the first event,” said Chief Finner. “We have stepped up and there will be more lines. We ask that you bring your patience. Any gun that comes in, is a win for the city and a win for the citizens of the Houston region, and we want to keep that going.”
As Chief Finner indicated, several changes are being implemented to make the October 8th event process more efficient, such as:
- More lanes to accommodate vehicles
- People given priority vouchers on July 30 will be moved to front of the line
- No privately manufactured weapons or “ghost guns” accepted
- No questions will be asked
- Remain in vehicles
Upon Arrival, everyone is being asked to please stay in your vehicle at all times. All firearms must be stored inside the trunk of your vehicle. HPD will not provide a gift card for anyone who does not follow directions.
The gun buyback program is one tool in the One Safe Houston initiative, which is a comprehensive holistic approach to reducing violent crime that was initiated by the city. It has four components: Violence Reduction and Crime Prevention, Crisis Intervention, Response and Recovery, Youth Outreach Opportunities, and Key Community Partnerships.
Mayor Turner emphasized that $1 million is going towards the gun buyback program and is being underwritten by the $53 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars for the One Safe Houston initiative that was advocated for by the Houston delegation of Congressman Green, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Congresswoman Garcia, and Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher.
“We, the Democratic Congressional leadership from Houston, voted for this,” said Congressman Green. “This is a means by which we can save lives. If that gun is not on the street, then it won’t be a part of any violence, so please bring your weapons in so we can make Houston a safer place, especially for our babies.”
As it was before, the gift card funding is as followed:
$50.00: Non-functioning firearm
$100.00: Rifle or Shotgun
$200.00: Fully Automatic rifle
Commissioner Ellis praised the overwhelming response to the first effort and is optimistic about the outcomes of future ones.
“While we don’t control guns in this state, we are not powerless to take guns off the street,” said Commissioner Ellis. “As you know, everything is bigger in Texas, including the problem with guns. Based on the research we have done; this was the second most significant gun buyback program in the history of America. On behalf of Harris County, we are glad to participate.”
According to Commissioner Ellis, based on the research they have done; this was the second most significant gun buyback program in the history of America.
The October 8th event will be held in District F, which is represented by Councilmember Tiffany Thomas.
“This event is about community,” said Thomas. “It was a community member, a pastor, in District F, who requested this event, so I want to thank the community for requesting this.”
Thomas also highlighted several community organizations, including members of the Divine 9, who have chosen to co-sponsor the effort and provide money to purchase radio ads to promote the upcoming initiative. Those groups were the Houston Area Coalition of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.; the One Houston Sigma Council of Chapters of Phi Beta Sigma; the Houston Metropolitan Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta; the Houston, TX Chapter of The Links.
“During our last Coalition meeting we approved co-sponsoring the Mayor’s District F Gun Buy Back Program,” said Houston Area Coalition President Brother Erick Powers. “These guns represent countless lives that may have been saved by preventing these guns from falling into the wrong hands. As a Coalition, among other things, we seek to make an impact in the city of Houston and surrounding areas. As such, the men of Omega are pleased to step up and support the upcoming gun buyback program, and of course OMEGA MEN are always willing to support worthy endeavors.”
All organizers admitted that the gun buyback program is not the overall solution to addressing violent crime in the city, but statistically, violent crime is down overall in Houston at this time, and the murder rate is down 4%. This can do nothing but help, according to Mayor Turner.
“I know people question whether gun buybacks are worth it, and I say yes,” said Mayor Turner. “The initiative was worth it if we took only one gun off the street that could have been stolen or used to injure or kill someone. Every gun we can get off the street today can help us create a safer tomorrow for everyone in our community.”