Richmond wants people to hand in their guns in exchange for gift cards

Richmond wants people to hand in their guns in exchange for gift cards

RICHMOND, Va. — Community members in Richmond are feeling the toll of gun violence that plagues the city and they’re looking to leaders for help finding solutions.

“Richmond as a community is safe right now? I’d have to say no,” Richmond artist who goes by Yungthellie said. “Me being a member of RPS, working in the school system, one of my students passed away from gun violence over this year.”

Citing it as one part of addressing the gun violence crisis, Richmond City Council just approved $80,000 in COVID-19 relief funding so that Richmond can host its second gun-buyback event at Liberation Church.

Basically, the city is asking people to hand over their firearms to the government in exchange for gift cards of up to $250 to businesses like Amazon and Kroger.

“I really think that buying back guns is definitely a good thing to do. It would definitely make the community better, safer,” Yungthellie said.


Richmond artist who goes by Yungthellie

But the idea is drawing mixed reactions from residents.

“I’m not sure how effective that’s going to be,” said Britieney Moore.

Moore said she believed the focus should not be on the weapon itself, but rather the person who has the gun and how they obtained the weapon.

“Ownership of guns or possession of guns is completely up to the individual and if they are not mentally stable or responsible enough to handle the responsibility of that, they shouldn’t have it,” Moore said.

So, what do the experts say?

Do gun buybacks really make an impact on local communities?

“A gun buyback program is not going to change much,” VCU professor and law enforcement expert William Pelfrey said. “The people who bring guns in are not likely to be people who are criminals. The guns that come off the street are not likely to be used in a major crime event.”

VCU professor and law enforcement expert William Pelfrey


VCU professor and law enforcement expert William Pelfrey

At last year’s event, 160 people participated.

The city said it collected 474 guns including 227 handguns, 117 rifles, 126 guns that don’t work, and five assault weapons.

“People want the benefits of a gun buyback program if they have a gun that they don’t want, if they have a gun that is worthless, that’s an heirloom that they’re never going to fire, if it’s inoperable if it’s something they just don’t need,” Pelfrey said.

Pelfrey said there were some benefits to the program:

  • It’s good PR
  • If it does prevent even one shooting, the $80,000 price tag is likely less than the costs associated with a violent crime (healthcare costs, lost work time, criminal justice resources, jail time, court time, etc).
  • “$80,000 is absolutely worth it, but that’s not going to get a whole lot of guns. When we’re talking thousands and thousands of guns off the street, then it’s going to influence crime. But for a few hundred guns off the street? It’s a good thing, but it’s not a great thing,” Pelfrey said.
    The gun buyback ordinance, which was patronized by Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and Richmond Councilwoman Ann-Frances Lambert, stated that the city’s goals with the event were to reduce the availability of firearms, provide for safe disposal of guns, and promote community engagement.

    The event is scheduled to take place on August 12 at Liberation Church.

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