Sunday, December 03, 2000

Traffic light at firearm buyback

N.Ky. program Tristate's first

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — The Tristate's first attempt at a federal gun buyback program drew mixed reviews Saturday at the Newport Housing Authority, where 42 firearms sold for $50 each.

        “We had hoped to see at least 50 guns today,” said Housing Authority executive director Mark Brown, “but the positive side is we have 42 less guns on the streets or around children.”

        The gun buyback, financed with $10,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, started strong at 10 a.m., with 16 guns turned in by 10:07.

        More than 30 guns had arrived at the housing authority office by noon, but the stream of firearms turned to a trickle in the final two hours before the buyback stopped at 2 p.m.

[photo] Lt. Cy Sykes of the Newport police examines a gun collected during Saturday's buyback. Forty-two firearms sold for $50 each during the program at the Newport Housing Authority.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        In contrast, two Lexington gun buybacks last spring drew 1,500 guns, and two in Louisville attracted 400 firearms. Both were sponsored through the same Violence Reduction Gun Buyback program started in 1999 by HUD with a $15 million grant.

        Larry Whatley, 40, drove all the way from Fairfield to pick up $50 for a Jennings semiautomatic .22-caliber pistol.

        “It was a firearm that had been laying around for years, and I had no reason to keep it any longer,” Mr. Whatley said. “I bought it about 10 years ago. I figured it was only worth maybe $50 anyway, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to get it out of the house.”

        Joe True, a retiree who lives in Southgate, brought in two old guns he said had been “laying around the house for 25 or 30 years. I had no use for them, and $100 is better than keeping them.”

        Mr. True said: “I have no preference as to whether a person owns firearms. In this case, I just didn't have any reason to keep these old guns and it seemed a good way to get rid of them and not worry where they were going.”

        Newport police Lt. Pat Moore, Lt. Cy Sykes and Officers Greg Simmons and Jeff Hood worked the gun buyback detail with Mr. Brown. Lt. Sykes initially checked each firearm as it was brought in to make sure it functioned and was not loaded, and Lt. Moore recorded information such as the serial number, make and model in a logbook.

        “It's interesting that most of the guns today were handguns,” Lt. Moore said, noting that only 10 of the 42 weapons turned in were long guns. “We prefer to get (handguns) off the streets.”

        The firearms ranged from a World War II Japanese military rifle to several old shotguns and .22-caliber rifles, to mostly old and/or inexpensive small-caliber handguns. One exception was a .38 Special Smith & Wesson revolver with a 2-inch barrel in good condition that would sell on the open market for at least $150.

        “All the guns will be checked through the national computer to see if they are on the stolen list,” Lt. Moore said. “If we find one on the list, which is unlikely, we'll try to return it to the owner. All the guns will be destroyed. Newport Steel has done this for us in the past with confiscated firearms, so we will probably talk to them again.”

        Mr. Brown spent $2,100 on guns Saturday, leaving $7,900 still available. He said he expects to set up another buyback in the near future.

        “We may look for a more central location in the city rather than the housing authority office,” he said. “This was the first time this has been done locally, and I think we will see a lot more guns with a second buyback.”

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