Tompkins Sheriff and Ithaca Police team up for gun buyback, but gun owners are skeptical

January 4, 2013

The Ithaca Police Department and Tompkins County Sheriff's Department are collaborating on a gun buyback event, scheduled to take place in two locations on Saturday, January 5th. Officers will pay cash on the spot for working firearms, and will also accept non-working guns and ammunition without payment.

IFD's Central Fire Station. 14850 file photo.IFD's Central Fire Station. 14850 file photo.The gun buyback will take place from 8:30am-4:30pm at the Ithaca Fire Department's central fire station west of Downtown Ithaca on West Green Street, and at the Airport Fire and Rescue Building at 72 Brown Road in Lansing.

Organizers say, "the goal of the program is to remove unwanted guns from our community before they fall into the hands of those that may do harm." The police and sheriff's department say they and the Tompkins County District Attorney's Office are offering amnesty and immunity from prosecution for all those participating.

Area residents who voluntarily surrender firearms will receive up to $200 cash for assault weapons, and lesser amounts for other types of guns, in working order. Participants may turn in as many guns as they wish, but will only receive payment for up to three. Payments will be made with funds provided by a private donor. Organizers say photo ID will be required for accounting purposes.

An AR-15 rifle, based on a design by Colt.An AR-15 rifle, based on a design by Colt."The prices being offered are a paltry amount compared to the market value of the guns," says one area hunter and gun owner, who prefers not to be identified. "$200 for an 'assault weapon' is less than 20% of current market value for any AR-pattern rifle. $50 for various shotguns and other rifles is, at best, 30-40% of market value."

"The police have not publicized that there is already amnesty for unregistered handguns found in estates, etc.," the gun owner adds. "They can be surrendered to the sheriff's office for safekeeping while the owner acquires a pistol permit and the gun is checked against the national list of stolen firearms. Adding immunity from prosecution -- and not identifying owners at the time of surrender -- is merely a convenient way for guns already used in crimes to be disposed of without a trail."

Some types of guns popular among firearms enthusiasts, including the AR-15 shown above, will become illegal in the event the New York State legislature passes S202-2013, a bill proposed by state senator Daniel L. Squadron. The bill would make mere possession of the rifle shown a class B felony because the pistol grip alone would classify the gun, based on a sixty-year-old rifle design, as an "assault weapon."

Municipal gun buyback programs often maintain anonymity by not requiring participants to show an ID, including an NYPD-sponsored event last September in New York City that netted 40 revolvers, 28 semi-automatic weapons, nine rifles, two shotguns, an assault rifle, and five unspecified weapons. Seven of the guns turned in at that event were loaded.

An LAPD-sponsored gun buyback last week in Los Angeles took "over 2,000 weapons" off the streets with a no-questions-asked policy. Area residents received grocery-store gift cards in exchange for working guns.

"Proper education could keep a lot more of these guns where they belong -- in the collections of enthusiasts, who will appreciate and enjoy them for the fine pieces of machinery they are," says our anonymous gun owner. "I'd much rather see owners taking their unwanted guns to a gun shop and receiving a fair market price than turning them in for scrapping and a pittance."

The gun buyback event in Ithaca was announced in the wake of last month's tragic shooting deaths at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. The gun used in that incident was already reportedly illegal in the state.

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