San Antonio guns-for-groceries buyback program receives overwhelming response

The program offered H-E-B gift cards in exchange for firearms.

By David Martin Davies, Texas Public RadioNovember 21, 2023 9:05 am,

From Texas Public Radio:

Before a participant in the city’s gun buyback program can enter the Alamodome parking lot, there is one last temptation.

On the street corner there’s a man, who wouldn’t give his name or organization, waving a thick fan of $100 bills, calling to the drivers and offering to save their guns. He didn’t get many takers.

An unnamed man offers cash for guns at the entrance of the San Antonio gun buyback effort.
David Martin Davies / Texas Public Radio

Instead, folks drove into the long queue of vehicles and prepared to give up their guns in exchange for H-E-B gift cards. How much depends on the firearm, said Valeria Mata: up to $300 for semi-automatic rifles; $200 for handguns; $150 for a rifle or shotgun; and $50 for a malfunctioning or homemade gun.

“The pistol was my dad’s, and he had it for years,” said Joe Sepko. “I remember shooting it in the ’40s and ’50s. And the rifle, they bought that for me in the ’30s. I’m 87 now, so they’re old.” But he said they still can shoot.

“I hoped they won’t get in the wrong hands. This way I’m sure that they won’t,” Sepko said.

San Antonio District 9 Councilmember John Courage said that’s why he organized this event.

“So that people have a safe way to remove those guns. So they’re not going to harm anybody. They’re not going to kill anybody,” he said. “They’re not going to be used in a domestic situation. They’re not going to threaten anybody. And they’re not going to be guns used in crime.”

A long line of cars at the San Antonio gun buyback event.
David Martin Davies / Texas Public Radio

Studies have shown that gun buybacks have little effect on reducing gun violence. This is because buybacks encourage responsible citizens to turn in their old or unwanted guns, rather than criminals who use them to commit violence. And there is little empirical evidence to suggest that buybacks reduce shootings, homicides or suicides by any significant degree in either the short- or long-term.

But the overflow size of the crowd of people who decided to turn in guns on Sunday is evidence that gun buybacks are a public service.

Brian Planto was disposing of seven rifles. He coaches a youth marksmanship team under the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

“We let the kids name the team, so they named the team ‘Twisted Ballistics,’” he said.

Planto said he teaches firearms safety, and that means parting ways with some guns.

“We have firearms that our athletes shoot, but these don’t fit that category so … don’t need them,” he said.

After the guns are turned in, police check to see if they’ve been stolen, and if so they are returned to the original owners. All other guns will be destroyed.

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