The Green Bay Police Department was in the parking lot of Sam’s Club on West Mason Saturday carrying out what they’re calling a successful gun buyback event called Goods for Guns. Aimed at getting “illegal and dangerous guns” off the streets of Green Bay, the GBPD was offering a $25 or $50 gift card to anyone who turned in a firearm, with no questions asked. Those on hand seemed to be mainly upstanding citizens with no idea what to do with their legal firearms.
“I brought my father’s .22 luger pistol that he purchased somewhere back in the 70’s,” said Andrew Buechner of Sturgeon Bay. “He passed away a few years ago, and I have no use for the firearm. I have two kids at home, and I don’t want them to find it because guns are dangerous, so one gun off the street and some money in my pocket.”
Turning in a single-shot shotgun he purchased several years ago, Green Bay resident Collin Braschnewitz surrendered his firearm to the GBPD under the assumption leaving it in a closet or selling it to a gun store may not be the right thing to do.
“In my mind, I’d rather do the right thing and know that it’s melted down. I don’t want to take any chances with what happens to it. I’d rather it gets destroyed and ends the paper trail.”
But retailers and gun stores in the Green Bay area are required to report sellers’ information. Any time a gun is taken in, on trade or just to sell, dealers are required to enter the firearm’s make, model and serial number along with the drivers license information of the person trading the firearm into NEWPRS, the North East Wisconsin Property Reporting System, by the end of the business day.
Because the department plans on destroying all firearms collected on Saturday that were not stolen or used in the commission of a crime, they were able to bypass Section 134.71 of the Wis. Statute (SEC. 30.08 of the Brown County Code) requiring those who purchase firearms for resale to report those weapons into NEWPRS in an effort to crack down on gun crime.
Police report taking in over 125 guns including 49 handguns, 46 shotguns (including 2 sawed-off), 27 rifles, 4 BB guns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and even made a few house calls to remove unsafe guns from Green Bay homes, including a zip gun.
“We support the Second Amendment and this program had nothing to do with the Second Amendment,” said Green Bay Police Captain Kevin Warych. “The purpose of this program was to take illegal unwanted guns off the streets. This program was specifically designed to be with no questions asked.”
Warych said the program was suggested by Chief Andrew Smith, who came to Green Bay from the LAPD, which prompted Warych to write a proposal to the Brown County Crime Prevention Foundation for the $2,000 grant used to purchase the gift cards to ensure no taxpayer money was used. Officials say more than $1,500 in gift cards were handed out in less than an hour after the event started.
“We were running out of gift cards before 10 o’clock when we were supposed to start, so I’m really pleased so far,” GBPD Chief Andrew Smith said. “Everyone’s been super friendly. Obviously, it’s no questions asked.”
“Right now, officers are working on going through each weapon, documenting the serial number and making sure that that gun is not stolen, if it is stolen, we’ll return it to it’s rightful owner,” said Captain Warych.
If the gun was neither stolen nor used in the commission of a crime, the guns collected at Saturday’s event will be sent down to Madison to be destroyed. Police plan to release the information gathered on the guns as soon as it’s available.
“The continuation of buyback programs is a triumph of wishful thinking over all the available evidence,” said Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program, referring to evidence that gun buyback programs do nothing to reduce gun-related crime in several major U.S. cities.
My contact at the Brown County Sheriff’s department informed me the majority of stolen guns from their jurisdiction turn up in Chicago with a few recovered in Milwaukee.
Following the program’s success on Saturday, the department said will consider running it again in 2017.