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Chesapeake council OKs gun buyback program

(Image: Shutterstock)
(Image: Shutterstock)

The Hampton Roads Black Caucus has held several gun buyback events around the region in recent years, aiming to get rid of illegal firearms and reduce gun violence.

Now the political action organization is expanding the program into Chesapeake. City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize the group to hold gun buyback events.

Ron Taylor, a Hampton Roads Black Caucus board member, said beforehand that the events started a few years ago in response to rising gun violence.

“Our board and our members said how can we sit on the sidelines of society and see this go on and not be impacted by it because it is going to either impact us indirectly or directly, sooner or later,” Taylor said. “So why don't we get involved and do something, try to bring some kind of solution to the problem.”

The first buyback event was in Virginia Beach and others have since been held in Norfolk, Suffolk and Portsmouth. 

Residents can voluntarily turn over guns — no questions asked, Taylor said — and receive a gift card or cash in return. The amount depends on the type and condition of the firearm, ranging from about $25 to $300.

The money comes from private donations, not taxpayers’ money, he said.

The events have each yielded about 30 to 40 guns, Taylor said. The Caucus hands them over to police to destroy.

He said about half that come in are illegal. Others come from situations like elderly people who have lost a spouse and need to dispose of a weapon left behind.

“Our goal is not to infringe on anyone's Second Amendment rights, but to reduce the gun violence and access to illegal guns,” Taylor said.

Research on the efficacy of gun buyback programs in the U.S. has shown mixed results. 

They’re a good way for individuals to safely get rid of weapons, but haven’t been directly linked to reducing homicides or suicides, Keith Taylor, an adjunct professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Other research says the programs’ effectiveness depends on how they fit into overall gun violence strategies in an area.

In a memorandum to City Council, Police Chief Mark Solesky said the department supports the program and plans to destroy any surrendered firearms.

“The goal of these events is to remove firearms from our community, helping to reduce gun violence and ensure a safer community,” Solesky wrote.

The police department would also assist during the event to make sure the firearms are safe and unloaded, spokesperson Leo Kosinski said in an email.

Taylor said every city police department they’ve worked with has been on board because they know any gun taken off the street “is one less gun they have to deal with in the execution of their duties each and every day.”

The HRBC hopes to hold a gun buyback event at a local church soon.

Katherine is WHRO’s climate and environment reporter. She came to WHRO from the Virginian-Pilot in 2022. Katherine is a California native who now lives in Norfolk and welcomes book recommendations, fun science facts and of course interesting environmental news.

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