By ReShonda Tate
Members from several local community organizations were on hand to throw their support behind the City of Houston and Harris County as they continue the fight to get guns off the streets.
In partnership with the Houston Police Department, officers will conduct another Gun Buy Back Operation in the parking lot of the Westchase Park & Ride METRO (Alief) in the heart of the districts of Council Member Tiffany D. Thomas and U.S. Congressman Al Green. Depending on the type of weapon, citizens turning in firearms will be rewarded with a gift card in the amounts from $50.00 to $200.00. All firearms will be retrieved with a no-question-asked policy by law enforcement. Funding for this program was provided by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
City of Houston and Harris County leaders have joined together to invest over $2 million in funds into upcoming gun buyback events. And they’re getting financial support from local community partners.
“On behalf of the One Council, a conglomerate of the local chapters of Phi Beta Sigma in the Houston area, we made a financial contribution to be used toward marketing and promoting this buyback initiative,” said Cliff McBean, president of the Fort Bend Chapter of the fraternity. “Our goal is to assist in giving as many people as possible an opportunity to get those guns off the streets.”
The second gun buyback event will be on Saturday, Oct. 8 from 8 a.m. until noon at the METRO Park and Ride at 11050 Harwin Drive in Alief.
The event is part of Mayor Sylvester’s Turner One Safe Houston Initiative – to reduce violent crimes throughout the city.
Officials say they will be cracking down on “ghost guns” – privately manufactured guns that can’t be traced to a manufacturer – after a large amount of the weapons were dropped off at the first gun buyback event in order to receive gift cards that are worth more than the amount it costs to make the gun. Officials said they would accept ghost guns, but participants should not expect a gift card for dropping them off.
District F Houston City Council member, Tiffany Thomas District F welcomed the contributions from the Community partners, saying the money from organizations.
“Public safety is all of our responsibility, and especially since the murder of George Floyd, as a council and with the Mayor’s administration, we have worked intentionally about addressing crime through a variety of ways,” Thomas said. “The gun buyback event in District F is one of the resources and tools we’re deploying to make sure that residents and District F feels safe in their neighborhoods. And marginalized, disenfranchised and low-income communities often have higher incidences of crime.”
Officials also said they would add multiple lines, after the last event was expected to end at noon, but lasted hours longer and did not end until 7 p.m.
The City of Houston hosted its first gun buyback event in late July at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Third Ward in partnership with HPD, Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Elis. The city collected 845 firearms and distributed up to $100,000 in gift cards.
According to a press release from the city, due to the overwhelming response from citizens – more than 150 people were given a future voucher for the next gun buyback event.
“The turnout demonstrates there are too many guns on our streets, and people want to get them out of their possession,” Mayor Turner said.
Last month, Houston City Council approved over $500,000 of ARPA funds for Blackhawk Network Inc, to load gift cards for future gun buyback programs.
Although some considered the event a success – there was major backlash from the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. David Mitcham, the assistant to Harris County DA Kim Ogg, expressed concerns on whether the event is effective enough for solving crimes.
The Houston Police Department collected guns with a-no-questions asked policy. They checked to see if the guns collected were stolen or used in a crime – which would be returned to the owner or collected as evidence.
This month Harris County Commissioners approved $1.1 million at its September 13th meeting to host eight gun buyback programs in an effort to reduce gun violence, suicides and accidental deaths caused by firearms.