Cars lined up at Ascarate Park and El Pasoans handed in firearms ranging from non-functioning pieces, to handguns, shotguns, and semi-automatic assault rifles during the county’s gun buyback initiative.
During four hours on Saturday in October El Paso Sheriff’s deputies collected 491 firearms. Each person was allowed to turn in a maximum of 10 guns so long as they owned the weapons. In exchange they received a gift certificate of a minimum of $50 for weapons that no longer worked, $100 for handguns, $150 for rifles and shotguns, up to a maximum of $200 for semi-automatic assault rifles. Ammunition was also accepted but without a reward.
“The idea with this program is to make it safe, easy, convenient, and to incentivize people that do not want their weapons, to come forward and anonymously turn them in,” Jo Anne Bernal, El Paso county attorney said.
Many who brought in a weapon preferred not to be identified.
“I’ve had an AR-15 for years. I wasn’t using it so there’s no point in keeping it,” said a man who did not want to give his name.
For many safety and concern for others were a primary factor in turning in their guns. A woman who did not give a full name, brought in a handgun she had been given as a gift because she didn’t want her kids to get a hold of it by accident.
“He said it was for protection but I’d rather run, and I’d rather hide, and rather avoid. I don’t believe in guns,” she said.
A man who handed in multiple guns said he appreciated the buyback opportunity.
“It’s a good way to clean the streets for people that don’t buy guns and people that want to get rid of them,” he said.
The county sheriff’s office handed out a total of $60,000 worth of gift cards. Eight people chose to decline the cards according to county officials.
The sheriff’s office destroyed the firearms they collected. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funded the buyback initiative.
“I’m so proud that these federal funds are being used in this way will help us achieve the goal of having safer communities,” said El Paso Congresswoman Veronica Escobar during the buyback initiative.