By ReShonda Tate,
The Defender Network
Members of several local community organizations were on hand to support the City of Houston and Harris County as they continue the fight to get guns off the streets.
In partnership with the Houston Police Department, officers will conduct another gun buyback operation in the Westchase Park and Ride METRO (Alief) parking lot in the heart of Councilman Tiffany D. Thomas’ and Congresswoman’s districts. American Al Green. Depending on the type of weapon, citizens surrendering firearms will be rewarded with a gift card in the amount of $50.00 to $200.00. All firearms will be collected with a no-questions-asked policy by law enforcement. Funding for this program was provided by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
City of Houston and Harris County leaders have partnered to invest more than $2 million in upcoming gun buy-back events. And they receive financial support from local community partners.
“On behalf of One Council, a conglomeration of local Phi Beta Sigma chapters in the Houston area, we have made a financial contribution to be used for the marketing and promotion of this buyout initiative,” said Cliff McBean, president of the Fort Bend chapter. of brotherhood. “Our goal is to help give as many people as possible the opportunity to get these guns off the streets.”
The second gun buy-back event will take place October 8 from 8 a.m. to noon at METRO Park and Ride at 11050 Harwin Drive in Alief.
The event is part of Mayor Sylvester’s Turner One Safe Houston initiative – to reduce violent crime citywide.
Officials say they will crack down on ‘ghost weapons’ – privately made weapons that cannot be traced to a manufacturer – after a large amount of weapons were dropped off at the first gun buy-back event to to receive gift cards that are worth more than the amount it costs to craft the gun. Officials said they would accept ghost guns, but attendees shouldn’t expect a gift card to drop them off.
Tiffany Thomas, a member of the Houston F-District City Council, praised the contributions from community partners, pointing to the organizations money.
“Public safety is our sole responsibility, and especially since the murder of George Floyd, as a council and with the mayor’s administration, we have worked intentionally to tackle crime in a variety of ways,” Thomas said. “The gun buy-back event in District F is one of the resources and tools we are deploying to ensure that residents and District F feel safe in their neighborhoods. And marginalized, disenfranchised and low-income communities often have a higher incidence of crime.
Officials also said they would add more lines, after the last event was supposed to end at noon, but lasted hours longer and didn’t end until 7 p.m.
The City of Houston held its first gun buy-back event in late July at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in the Third Ward in partnership with HPD, Harris 1 County Commissioner Rodney Ellis. The city collected 845 firearms and distributed up to $100,000 in gift cards.
Due to the overwhelming response from citizens – over 150 people were awarded a future voucher for the upcoming gun buy-back event.
“The turnout shows there are too many guns on our streets and people want them out of their possession,” Mayor Turner said.
Last month, the Houston City Council approved more than $500,000 in ARPA funds for Blackhawk Network, to load gift cards for future gun buyback programs.
Although some considered the event a success, there was major backlash from the Harris County District Attorney’s office. David Mitcham, assistant Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, expressed concern about whether the event is effective enough to solve crimes.
The Houston Police Department collected firearms with a no questions asked policy. They checked whether the weapons collected had been stolen or used in a crime – which would be returned to the owner or collected as evidence.
This month, Harris County commissioners approved $1.1 million at their Sept. 13 meeting to run eight gun buy-back programs in an effort to reduce gun violence, suicides and accidental deaths caused by firearms.
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