Guns for Groceries?

By:  Kelly Taylor Holt

Guns and GroceriesAustin, Texas is not the first city to concoct a scheme for collecting guns, but the city’s first ever event produced some unexpected results.  On Saturday, June 5, the Austin Police Department (APD) offered to trade grocery vouchers for guns. On June 7, Fox News reported that about 350 guns had been surrendered for $30,000 in grocery vouchers, and the Department ran out of vouchers.

According to Fox News on June 2, it was to be the first "no questions asked gun buyback program to get guns off the streets" for the area. The event was held at Austin Cornerstone Church, in one of the city’s less desirable neighborhoods. APD’s Sergeant Ely Reaves said, “The line is very shocking to me. We had people in the parking lot at 7:30 a.m. waiting to turn their guns in, and the event did not start until 9 a.m.” Department officials ran out of vouchers after about two and a half hours. It accepted guns till 3 p.m. but did not give out any more gift cards. Individuals were limited to two cards, but could turn in as many guns as they wished.  Fox’s report on May 25 claimed the Department would also be buying fake guns because they have seen a trend of criminals using them in robberies. Fake guns? Yes, indeed. APD handed out $10 cash value debit cards for air and BB guns. $100 cards were exchanged for handguns and rifles, and $200 for assault rifles.

All this was aimed at improving public safety and reducing gun crime. Chief Art Acevedo said, “Anybody who wants to come here to this church, in a neutral location, give back a firearm, and in return get some funding for their family. We are not here to tell people that they shouldn't have guns. What this is is truly an opportunity for people that want to get guns out of their homes, that feel that they're too old to feel safe in their homes, people that may have young children that no longer want to have firearms."

After collection, the Department will check serial numbers on the weapons to determine if they were stolen or had been used in crimes. No mention was made if guns identified as stolen would be returned to their owners. If an antique, the gun will be stored in the gun library. If a link is found between a firearm and a crime, the information will be logged, according to the June 7 report. and The Daily Texan both wrote that no ID would be required at turn-in, so how a gun linked to a specific crime could be traced or the crime solved is unclear.

The event was funded by the Greater Austin Crime Commission, but it is unknown if that funding included tax dollars. If so, it would have been an improper use of tax money. A Board member of GACC is Admiral Bobby Inman, left-leaning member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

It is not a police department’s job to disarm civilians. Getting guns out of old people’s homes, or households where there are young children is not getting illegal guns off the streets. If the goal is to prevent crime, why would law enforcement deprive the citizenry the right to prevent crime by practicing self-defense? Dale Gribble, one of Texas’ most beloved TV characters said it best, “If someone’s breaking into your house and you don’t have a gun, HOW are you gonna shoot him?”

APD plans another event later this year.

Kelly Taylor Holt is an Austin-based writer and filmmaker, and the producer of a politically based TV talk show.

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