Houston’s ‘No Questions Asked’ Gun Buyback Criticized By Democratic District Attorney
While the Houston gun buyback initiative may be a way of combating violent crime in the city, Kim Ogg, the Harris County District Attorney, is concerned about the consequences of such events. In a letter addressed to several officials, including the Houston police chief and the sheriff, Ogg put forward her opinion that while this initiative may be helpful in getting guns off the hands of criminals and thus reduce crimes, it may also bring in several legal issues. The letter was sent to the officials prior to the first buyback event held in July.
She was of the opinion that under the current parameters of the initiative, it could harm public safety, obstruct the prosecution of criminals, and even encourage theft in Harris county and beyond.
According to the city advertisements, people could exchange their guns for gift cards at the event, under a no-questions-asked policy. The weapons would first be tested to ascertain if they have been involved in any violent crime or not, and then destroyed. Ogg finds this to be problematic. With the police offering anonymity and immunity to people who turn in their guns, they may be assisting in destroying evidence.
Anyone, she says, who turns in a weapon that’s connected with a crime is a witness according to law. And helping them exchange a gun without any liabilities can make law enforcement a party to tampering with or destroying evidence.
The authorities went on with the program despite the concerns raised by the district attorney. The first event held in Houston resulted in the collection of 845 weapons. The law enforcement authorities handed over around $100,000 in the form of gift cards. It allowed citizens to exchange non-functioning weapons for $50, shotguns or rifles for $100, handguns for $150, and automatic rifles for $200.
Rodney Ellis, the Harris County Commissioner, also spoke about similar initiatives held in places like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Seattle. Looking back, such events have been held several times since the 1960s. Unfortunately, there is no concrete evidence pointing to the fact that this helps combat violent crimes.
Andy Kahan, Crime Stoppers of Houston Victims Advocate, pointed out that at present, known suspects of over 700 unsolved murders reside in Harris county. Needless to say, the numbers would be far greater if one adds in the cases where suspects have not been identified yet. This event is particularly harmful to cases of violent crime pending trial. The policy of anonymity is unfair and harmful to the prosecution in such cases, as well as to the victims themselves. The buyback program may make the work way tougher for Houston Federal Crime Lawyers.
The event itself was not free from issues. For instance, there were cases of people exchanging 3D-printed guns for gift cards. According to one report, a man was found sharing receipts of exchanging 62 guns which he 3D printed at home for $50 each. He further mentioned that making each gun cost him around $3, so the total exchange had brought him an overall profit of around $3000.
Additionally, the event also created a different type of market for people interested in buying guns. These buyers were reported to have directly negotiated with the people waiting in lines to exchange their guns. They got their desired weapons by offering a higher price than the city officials. As a result, there is no record of how many such undocumented sales occurred throughout the day.
As for the city officials, they are looking forward to hosting another such event in August. An announcement was made that no 3D printed guns will be accepted in the next event. There has been no response yet on the concerns raised by Ogg or the other problems surrounding the event.