As Richmond continues to grapple with shootings, city officials are planning to launch a gun buyback program this summer.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports the City Council on Monday unanimously adopted a grant contract with a California-based nonprofit group to administer the program.
Mayor Levar Stoney and other city officials are hoping the program will reduce the number of firearms on the street by allowing gun owners to surrender weapons they own in exchange for gift cards.
Under the terms of a grant agreement, the city will allocate $83,050 to The Robby Poblete Foundation.
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While the Richmond Police Department will be responsible for taking the firearms, the foundation will use $67,500 to buy the gift cards. WWBT-TV reported the city will offer $250 for assault-style weapons, $200 for handguns and $150 for rifles.
During Monday's meeting, several council members said they were still unsure whether the program can reduce violent crime. Critics say studies have shown buyback programs do little to reduce gun violence.
Ninth District Councilman Michael Jones said he fears city leaders could “be on the hook” if the program is ineffective and that it would open them to public accusations of inaction.
Reva Trammell, who represents the city’s 8th District, questioned whether the gift cards could be used to buy new guns. Chief Administrative Officer Lincoln Saunders said participants will not be able to do so with the cards that are purchased.
But others said the buyback program can be one part of an effort to curb gun violence.
“We know that there is no silver bullet solution to the gun violence epidemic ... including this gun buyback program,” said Councilwoman Ann-Frances Lambert. “But if executed properly, we can save lives.”
The Robby Poblete Foundation, founded by the mother of a man slain in Vallejo, California, in 2014, has worked with a handful of communities on gun buyback programs. The organization’s website says it has collected nearly 1,400 guns at buyback events in Augusta, Georgia; San Francisco; and other California localities. The foundation says it uses materials from guns and turns them into art to raise awareness about the effects of gun violence.
The buyback program is expected to begin in late July or August.
The city of Portsmouth is planning to hold a gun buyback event June 25.