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Buyback Called a Public Service in Effort to Prevent Gun Violence

Patti Singer

Many types of guns were surrendered May 26, 2021 at a gun buyback held by the city, Rochester Police Department and the Office of the Attorney General. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

The line ran well into the parking lot at Church of Love Faith Center as people waited to turn in unwanted guns – and it wasn’t just that many of them observed COVID-19 physical distance etiquette.

“We do have a big line, and it shows there’s a pent-up demand where people need an opportunity to get rid of unwanted guns,” said Ted O’Brien, assistant attorney general in charge of the Rochester regional office.

“That’s a focus for us because it’s the unwanted guns that maybe aren’t monitored as closely and could go missing without an owner of a gun even knowing,” he said. “What we found over the years is that say, a spouse dies who’s a gun owner, a surviving spouse doesn’t know what to do with a gun. This gives the public an opportunity to get rid of unwanted guns. And the hope is that those unwanted guns don’t go missing and end up in the wrong hands.”

The city, Rochester Police Department and state Office of the Attorney General worked together on May 26 at the church on Exchange Street to hold the first gun buyback since 2019. The AG’s office provides the funds for the buyback, which ran for three hours.

Attendees could surrender as many guns as they wished, and approximately 270 firearms were dropped off, according to RPD.

The AG’s office said 159 handguns, 71 rifles and shotguns and 20 assault rifles were surrendered. The office paid nearly $35,000 in gift cards.

Payments in the form of gift cards were $25 for non-working or antique firearms, $75 for rifles and shotguns, $150 for handguns and $250 for assault weapons.

RPD and the AG hold two or three buybacks a year. Over the last five years, the most guns turned in at one event was about 130, O’Brien said.

“People do sometimes surrender inoperable guns,” he said. “We take all the guns. The hope really is to just keep them from ending up on the streets.”

No forensic analysis is done to see whether any of the weapons were used in a crime.

“It’s a no-questions-asked amnesty program,” O’Brien said. “We do get some guns that are illegal and have fallen into the wrong hands and they’re surrendered today, I think there’s a public service there. We may help reduce gun violence to it, to a certain extent. Anything we can do to add to reduction in gun violence is a big plus.”

Rochester police have a list of guns reported stolen and will scan serial numbers to determine whether the gun can be returned to its rightful owner.

The line of people surrendering unwanted guns extended into the parking lot. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

O’Brien said the buyback is a public service to help people get rid of unwanted firearms. The surrendered guns are melted down.

“Most of the people that are here today, we wouldn’t describe as they’re bringing in illegal or stolen guns, but these are guns that then won’t end up missing and won’t end up as stolen guns,” O’Brien said.

“I think that the lines that we’re seeing here today is some indication of the response to a lot of the gun violence that we’ve seen around the country. I think there’s a recognition of people with guns that they don’t want anymore, that they want to make sure that their guns don’t end up enhancing that problem or contributing to that problem.”