Activist organizations hold rivaling gun trade-in events

Gun rights activists aiming to arm and protect law-abiding citizens protested Saturday against a city commission’s gun buyback program.

The Greater Austin Crime Commission, a private organization dedicated to generating awareness about crime prevention, offered $100 in grocery store gift cards for every handgun and $200 for every assault rifle to any individual who wants to turn over his or her firearm, without any questions asked. The Austin Police Department processed and destroyed the collected guns.

Commission Executive Director Cary Roberts said the group collected more than 400 guns, about 50 more than the first Guns4Groceries event in June. She said the program’s purpose is to collect the unwanted firearms, to raise public awareness about firearm safety and to reduce gun violence.

“This program has proven that there is great interest among the public in having an opportunity to safely dispose of a firearm that someone no longer needs or wants,” Roberts said.

Individuals can sell the firearms on their own, either to someone else or to a gun dealer, APD Lt. Ely Reyes said. But if the commission buys the gun, the police department will trace the weapon’s owner history and possible criminal involvement.

“The program does not infringe on people’s Second Amendment right to own and carry a firearm,” Reyes said.
Gun rights activists clamored to provide an alter+native presence at the Guns4Groceries event. John Bush, Texans for Accountable Government executive director, said the Guns4Groceries program targets the economically disadvantaged.

“They’re asking law-abiding citizens to turn in their home protection in exchange for food,” Bush said. “The ultimate irony is that the economically disadvantaged live in areas with higher crime rates, so they’re taking the guns out of the homes of those who need it most.”

The group hosted Guns for Cash, a program that took place directly in front of Guns4Groceries. The group bought 24 guns, offering $110 in cash for every handgun and $220 for every assault rifle. The program would issue the working firearms for free in exchange for community service to activists and Austinites who feel they need one, Bush said.

“Our hope was to educate the public about the fact that the best way to keep your family or community safe is to put firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens,” Bush said. “Whenever it’s understood that there is a presence of firearm owners in a community, there’s a deterrent factor for preventing criminals from acting out.”

Bush said the concept of more guns leading to less crime played out at UT on Sept. 28, when mathematics sophomore Colton Tooley fired several rounds of his AK-47 on campus before taking his own life.

“Whenever there are gun-free zones, as there are on college campuses, the only people that will carry guns onto campus are criminals,” Bush said. “We’re actually raising a red flag to come and harm innocent people.”