Following gun buyback programs across the country in recent months, one local leader says it’s an idea that Madison should consider.
Michael Johnson, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, has supported the idea of a gun buyback previously, and said he continues to think it’s something the community should try.
“They’ve done it in Chicago and in fact this is not anything new to Madison,” Johnson said.
Madison police have sponsored two gun buybacks in years past. The “Footwear for Firearms” program in 1994 offered gift cards to Famous Footwear in exchange for the surrender of a gun. The program netted more than 2,800 guns and was considered the most successful gun buyback program in the country at the time.
In 2005, “Operation Peacekeeper” collected more than 140 guns in the community.
Johnson says he’s been talking to Chicago leaders about their recent gun buybacks and believes it could help prevent violence in Madison.
“Anytime you can get hundreds of guns off the street, it may be that one gun that saves somebody’s life,” Johnson said.
Law enforcement officials caution, though, that the guns are often old or broken and turned in by law-abiding citizens.
“I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s not a positive, but I don’t think it has the broad-reaching outcomes we’re really looking for which is to take guns out of the hands of criminals,” Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney said.
Madison Police Chief Mike Koval expressed a similar sentiment.
“Clearly, buy-back programs can take weapons off the street but there is little to no incentive for criminals to hand over their weapons,” Koval said Monday. “At the end of the day, MPD would support a private sector infrastructure aimed at reclaiming guns, but to date have not come across any individuals or entities willing to provide the financial will to launch and sustain a gun buy-back program.”
Johnson said he hasn’t yet found someone to fund an effort to provide gift cards or an incentive for firearm surrenders. But he’s hopeful, because he said now might be the right time.
“This is the season of giving,” Johnson said. “People are looking to get their kids and family members gifts for the holidays, people need food and clothing, and if there’s an economic value to turning guns in I say give it a try.”
Koval also pointed out that MPD allows citizens to surrender their guns for disposal. Those citizens can call the Dane County Public Safety Communications Center at 608-255-2345 to set up an appointment for an officer to pick up the gun.