(Post-event note: We’ve taken down the video window but will add the recorded version once it’s available. Photo above, in the meantime, is from the mayor’s Twitter feed.)
10:09 AM: As reported here last night, the city and county are announcing a new gun-safety initiative this morning, including a “buyback” program.
Click above to see live Seattle Channel web-only video of the announcement event, happening at Mount Zion Baptist Church in the Central District, as it happens live; we’ll publish key points here during and after the announcement.
NOTES: “If we can take one gun off the street, and save one life, it will be worth it,” said Mount Zion’s senior pastor Rev. Aaron Williams, opening the event, paraphrasing a Biblical saying by suggesting that guns could be “beaten into laptops.” The mayor, speaking next, noted the 1992 buyback program (mentioned in our preview last night) as the most recent one in Seattle. Details:
-‘Monetary incentive … process will be simple and anonymous … bring unloaded gun to dropoff site … police will take possession of the weapon and offer a gift card in return … valued up to $100 for handguns, rifles, shotguns, up to $200 for weapons qualified as assault weapons’
-First event: January 26th, location: Under I-5 between Cherry and James. [Added: 9 am-3 pm] Gift cards will be offered in exchange for guns – up to $100 for most types, up to $200 for “assault weapons.” More dates – “would like to make this a sustainable program,” says the mayor. “We’re looking for more partners.” Amazon is the first to donate gift cards.
-“This is one tool in the toolbox,” says the mayor, who also noted that trigger locks and gun-safety information would be offered at the buyback event(s). Honorary co-chairs include four former mayors; two are there, two not (including West Seattleite Greg Nickels).
10:16 AM: King County Executive Dow Constantine speaking now. “Buyback programs – they get guns off the street,” he begins, noting the recent L.A. program bringing in 2,000. He notes that by law, he is not allowed to enact gun regulations, and adds that “gun violence is a public-health issue” – that includes mental health. He is followed by county Public Health Officer David Fleming, who says dealing with gun violence “on a community-wide basis” is part of his job: “We have to do better.” He says “guns are no different” from other public-health challenges, from tobacco to seat belts.”If you can turn in a gun, do it; if you choose to keep one at home, be sure that it’s stored, unloaded, in a safe location.” He says gun violence is a leading cause of premature death in the U.S. and “This is a fixable problem.”
10:21 AM: Seattle Deputy Police Chief Nick Metz talks about having seen the aftermath of countless deaths involving guns. “We’ve seen so many shattered lives,” he says, mentioning accidental shootings involving children outside Seattle as cases in point, moving on to “the intentional shootings … it’s not uncommon to find out that the gun that was used was stolen.” Storing guns safely would mean “that particular gun would not have been used in that situation,” he said, saying that a gun can be “a time bomb waiting to go off,” particularly if there is one in your home or office that you don’t really want. “If we are able to take one unwanted gun out of circulation, we can guarantee that at least one life will not be harmed by that gun … and if we can get a thousand unwanted guns out of circulation, that’s a thousand lives we can guarantee will not be harmed by those guns.” He is followed by Renee Hopkins, the West Seattleite who leads the Seattle Police Foundation, who says SPF is proud to be a founding sponsor of this initiative.
10:29 AM: Former mayors Norm Rice and Charles Royer speak. Royer recalls the public-health campaigns against indoor smoking and unsafe automobiles. “We gotta do this thing, although it’s a small piece of the puzzle,” he says. “…I think we can beat this thing.” After him, Mayor McGinn returns to the podium to answer questions. What will happen to the guns? West Seattle’s Nucor Steel will melt them down (and what happens to that metal/steel hasn’t yet been decided), he says. Will any of the guns “be preserved”? he’s asked. “That is not our intention,” he replied, adding that none will be kept for criminal investigations, and none will be resold.** How much money do they have for this so far? $70,000, and they’re hoping to launch with at least $100,000. (That’s much more than the $20,000 with which the 1992 “$50 for a gun” program started, it was later pointed out.)
10:43 AM: As Q/A continue, Deputy Chief Metz: “Ask yourself how you are going to feel” if you have an unsecured gun in your home, it’s stolen in a burglary, and then you find out it was used in a homicide. “(This can) ensure a gun won’t be used to destroy a life.” Even if a “tiny fraction” of the guns in the city are turned in, that’s still a potential saving of lives, he continues. Meantime, if people want to turn over a gun and don’t care about getting compensation, he adds, you can call police and they’ll come pick it up. **Metz also clarifies something said earlier – the turned-in guns WILL be checked to see if they’re stolen, and if they are, the owners will be contacted.
10:49 AM: The event has just concluded. Last to answer a question was County Executive Constantine, who said, “I reject the cynicism” that he saw in the questions about whether this would do enough to fight crime or violence – anything accomplished, any life potentially saved, is enough, he declared.