Tonawanda News

February 24, 2013

City's first-ever gun buy-back program gets more than 100 weapons off the street

Gun buy-back gets weapons off the street

by Timothy Chipp
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — NIAGARA FALLS — Falls Mayor Paul Dyster wasn’t necessarily a fan of police agencies buying firearms from civilians to keep the streets safe.

He said he’s always questioned the events, wondering if they made as much of a dent in criminal activity as the hype it creates.

Then he got a good look at what the city’s first-ever buyback resulted in and quickly flipped his thinking.

“I’ve always been skeptical of these gun buybacks,” he said Saturday. “Part of me wonders if we got these results because we’ve never done this before. But there was a whole lot of good done here today. The response has been overwhelming. It’s amazing to see the variety of firearms coming in today.”

Det. John Faso, who led the effort to purchase the weapons, said the amount far exceeded his expectations for the first event of its kind in the city. 

Police offered varying amounts of money to anyone willing to turn over a gun, based on both condition of the firearm and its classification. Owners of assault rifles were given $100, handguns $75. Long guns like rifles and shotguns were traded for $50, while police provided $10 for all non-working guns, no matter the type.

Dyster said the majority of the people he talked to at the event — the ones willing to talk — simply came into possession of the guns they sold to the city and decided to get rid of them.

“A lot of people ended up with guns maybe they didn’t want,” he said. “Like if a relative died, and they simply didn’t know what to do with them. So they brought them here because they maybe were afraid someone would break in and steal them and use them in a crime. But we also got some scary guns brought in so it’s nice to keep the streets safe.”

Scary guns were turned in, including several shotguns with sawed off barrels and stocks which are signs of concealment, perfect for committing violent crimes, the mayor said. Some even had serial numbers filed off, indicating illegal status.

Faso said most of the weapons taken in were capable of becoming deadly.

“One of the knocks on this program has been that events like this only take in junk,” he said. “That non-working guns are all we’re going to get. But out of all of the (hundreds) of guns we’ve seen, only one of them was not working. And we got some pretty decent assault rifles.”

Of the more than 100 handguns, rifles, shotguns and other firearms taken in at the event, the police department will scour through all of them to ensure they’re all legal guns. If for some reason the department comes across one reported stolen, Faso said the owners would be contacted and have the weapon returned to them for them to make a decision about the firearm.

“Every gun is going to be run by our CSU unit,” Faso said. “The department will make every effort to contact the original owners about the guns if they were reported stolen.”

The buyback, which was held at the Niagara Falls Fire Department station at 11th Street and Ontario Avenue Saturday, was supported by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. Local groups like MAD DADS supported the event, while the Block Club Council provided free gun locks to anyone who needed one. Police also offered a free gun safety class.