Hundreds of guns are being swapped for gift cards in Phoenix, where two anonymous donors have given $100,000 apiece to help fund what some say may be the city’s last series of gun buybacks.
It’s the third buyback the city has held in May, racing to take unwanted guns off the hands of residents before a new state law goes into effect that would require police to resell any lost, forfeited or abandoned firearms they receive.
“Recently I received a phone call from an individual who was motivated by the success of the Phoenix gun buyback program,” city Mayor Greg Stanton said on Tuesday. “That donor has made a donation also in the amount of $100,000.”
“These are people that are motivated by Newtown that wanted to do something positive for the community,” Stanton said of the anonymous donors, referring to the December shooting that left 26 people, most of them children, dead in a Connecticut elementary school.
Residents who want to get rid of their guns are asked to bring unloaded firearms to one of three neighborhood churches on Saturday, according to the Phoenix Police Department. Handguns, shotguns and rifles can be exchanged for a $100 grocery store gift card. Assault weapons get a $200 gift card.
The buybacks were organized in conjunction with Arizonans for Gun Safety and the Phoenix Police Department. Police say they collected 803 guns on the first weekend, and bought back 176 more a week later before running out of money.
That first round of buybacks held on May 5 also was funded by an anonymous donation to Arizonans for Gun Safety.
“That first day that we did it was unbelievably successful, we almost exhausted our gift cards on the first day,” city police spokesman Sgt. Steve Martos told NBC News.
While critics have said the buybacks will do little to reduce gun crimes in the city, the mayor has said the program is intended to be just one step toward preventing violence on Phoenix’s streets.
“I respect the Second Amendment,” Stanton said when he announced the buybacks in his State of the City address in February. “This buyback will take steps to make Phoenix safer without curtailing the rights of responsible gun owners.”
Guns collected will be assessed for historical value and to determine whether they were lost or stolen, according to Phoenix police. After that, the guns will be turned over to a company that melts them down, said Martos.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, signed the law in April requiring police to resell any firearms they collect to a federally licensed firearms dealer. That law will go into effect 90 days after the current legislative session ends, Martos said, and would make it “counterproductive” for the city to carry out buybacks in the future.
“The whole intent is to take unwanted guns off the street, process them, and then ultimately destroy them,” Martos said.
The law was supported by pro-gun groups.
The National Rifle Association said in a letter to Brewer before the bill was signed that reselling seized guns “would maintain their value, and their sale to the public would help recover public funds,” the Associated Press reported.
“However, this measure would ensure that taxpayer resources are not utilized to pursue a political agenda of destroying firearms,” the NRA’s Brent Gardner said in the letter supporting the bill, according to the AP.