A gun “buyback” originally scheduled for this weekend in Farmington, New Mexico won’t be taking place after all, thanks to grassroots opposition from the local community. In a statement, Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes said that the event had “not received enough advance education and community collaboration prior to scheduling this event,” but it also sounds like the Farmington police chief decided to partner up with a statewide gun control group without informing the city council or seeking its approval.
KRQE News 13 reached out to the city for more clarification on Thursday, and Mayes said that the program was “considered administratively as an operational matter, and therefore not taken to the City Council for formal action,” a statement from Mayes read. He added, “Ultimately, upon Councilors receiving negative input from members of the public, the matter was reconsidered.”
Police Chief Steve Hebbe hasn’t said anything publicly since the buyback was cancelled, but he was eager to promote the compensated confiscation event when it was still on his schedule.
During an interview with The Daily Times earlier this week, Hebbe had characterized the event as an opportunity for those who had an unwanted gun in their household to dispose of it safely.
“An unwanted gun is nothing but a liability,” Hebbe said on Dec. 4. “This is for people who don’t know how to use a gun or there’s something going on in their home, and they don’t want a gun around. Anything we can do to help people get these out of their home is a victory.”
I suggest those folks visit one of the multiple gun shops in town to see if any of them are interested in purchasing any unwanted firearms. In fact, it the Farmington Police had teamed up with a consortium of gun stores willing to trade, buy, or take in firearms in working condition I doubt there would have been any sort of outcry from residents. But when the local police department partners with a gun control group, some folks are rightfully going to take issue.
Miranda Viscoli, the co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, said she was surprised and disappointed at the city’s course of action. She said Hebbe informed her Wednesday afternoon the event would not take place as scheduled.
She said she wanted to recognize Hebbe for his leadership and courage for initially having his department agree to hold the event with her organization. She said it was unfortunate that the city of Farmington decided that getting unwanted guns out of the community was not a worthwhile endeavor to keep citizens safer from gun violence.
Saturday’s event was to be the 19th such gun buy-back event New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence had held in the state. Similar events have taken place in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Los Alamos, Las Cruces, Española and Taos since the organization was formed in 2016. More than 2,000 guns have been taken out of circulation and destroyed through the program, Viscoli said, 40% of which were semiautomatic or assault weapons.
And what does Viscoli have to show for her efforts? In 2016 the violent crime rate in New Mexico was 702.5 per 100,000 residents. In 2022, that number had jumped to about 780 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Obviously, there are a lot of factors that come into play when we’re talking about crime rates, but there’s virtually no research that has demonstrated any positive effect from “buybacks” on either violent crime or other misuse of a firearm. The primary benefit of a “buyback” isn’t public safety, but public relations for politicians who can generally count on a headline or two lauding them for “doing something.”
In this case, any praise for local politicos will be coming from the opponents of the planned event, though residents might want to hold their applause until they know for certain that the “buyback” won’t be held in the future. Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett told the local paper that if the city “could the right time and the right group, it’s definitely a possibility” that a compensated confiscation event could be held in the future. The grassroots activists that succeeded in putting a halt to this weekend’s “buyback” shouldn’t rest until they’ve gotten a guarantee from the city council that any event in the future designed to allow residents to rid themselves of unwanted firearms should also come with the opportunity for those guns to go to a good home and a responsible gun owner rather than be destroyed by a group intent on doing the same to the right to keep and bear arms.