In announcing plans for the city’s gun buyback in August, Brown administration officials stressed that this method of getting weapons off the street is paid for with money seized in drug prosecutions.
But an audit released this week shows the true cost of the buyback, which includes $15,407 from city taxpayers for police officers, auditors and report technicians. It also revealed that many of the guns that were turned in did not work.
The buyback, held Aug. 18, yielded 745 weapons, and $32,065 was distributed in debit cards, which are financed with drug asset forfeiture money, the city’s share of revenue from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. Mayor Byron W. Brown called it a “very successful effort.”
Brown and Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda have said the buyback is one tool to get guns off the street.
And while the city did receive five assault weapons, 253 handguns and 193 rifles or shotguns, officials also paid out $2,940 for 294 nonworking or antique guns that were turned in.
Since 2007, 34 percent of guns brought in during buybacks have been nonworking, 37 percent have been working handguns, and 29 percent have been working rifles, according to the audit. Less than 1 percent have been assault weapons.
The effectiveness of gun buybacks is debated nationally, and some cities don’t conduct them. While Brown contends that the buybacks get guns that can be used in crimes off the street, some residents have questioned whether the buybacks are effective at getting guns out of the wrong hands.
The audit, conducted by City Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder’s office, noted some oddities, such as the one location on the West Side, Prince of Peace Christian Church, where just two guns were received. Another low-volume location, also on the West Side, was Primera United Methodist Church, which took in 28 guns.
The highest volume was at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in South Buffalo, where 313 guns were turned in.
The audit suggested that since each of the buyback’s seven locations requires the city to fund police personnel, the city should consider other locations or consolidating some locations.
In response, Brown administration spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge said the city would be open to considering changes.
During the buyback, questions are not asked of people turning in guns. The guns are accounted for and then destroyed.
Police do not try to trace the guns or link them with any crimes.
The city paid police $9,006 for their work that day, $4,698 for report technicians and other police office personnel and $1,703 for nine auditors’ pay and car allowance.
The audit found that the city properly issued the debit cards and accounted for the guns.
“As with any program, there are costs involved, but the mayor sees this as a successful program over the years, removing thousands of guns from homes and streets,” DeGeorge said.