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City leaders to discuss gun buyback program Tuesday night

City leaders are pushing for a gun buyback program. But some members of the community question if that will work to address violence.
Credit: Rose White / 13 OYS
Grand Rapids Police cruiser.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A summer of gun violence has rocked the Grand Rapids community, and over the weekend 11 people were injured in four separate shooting incidences Saturday night, heading into Sunday morning. 

A part of Grand Rapids Police's plan to address the violence is a gun buyback program, which the department will be proposing at Tuesday night's city commission meeting. 

Police Chief Eric Payne said the program would help get illegal guns off the street and give people the opportunity to get rid of guns they don't use anymore. If the proposal is approved by city commissioners, $20,000 would go towards the program and the promotion of it.

RELATED: Grand Rapids Police proposes gun buyback program

At Tuesday morning's fiscal meeting, the Grand Rapids City Commissioners and representatives from the police department discussed the proposal ahead of the evening meeting. 

Commissioner Jon O'Connor, who supports the program, discussed how much money would be offered for the guns, saying that the range of prices is too low. 

"As someone who is a legal firearms owner and understands the market in which firearms exist currently, demand for firearm sales are up across the country. The proposed gun range seems insignificant," he said. "Also we live in a state with the gun loophole, where I can show up at a gun buyback and offer more money for peoples guns than the police department or city's going to offer for a gun."

Grand Rapids Police Deputy Chief Scott Rifenberg said the program would be focused on getting unsecured guns that have the "potential" to be used. And Capt. Geoff Collard, who is also the president of the city's police union, said "the target audience is 15 year olds to the early-20s that are carrying illegal guns and using them for violence."

RELATED: Community, police respond to weekend shootings in Grand Rapids

While several city leaders, including the police chief, are pushing for this program to be implemented, some members of the community are more skeptical about its effectiveness. 

J.D. Chapman Jr., executive director of Realism is Loyalty, a local nonprofit that mentors at-risk youth, questioned why the program is asking for $20,000--in part for promotion--but only looking at spending $50 to $200 per gun. 

"If I can get $350 to $400 for a gun on the street, why would I take $200 to give it to you," Chapman said.

He also noted that people might be afraid right now, so having a gun may be more valuable to them as responsible gun owners who want to protect themselves. Marian Young-Barrera, from the Baxter Neighborhood Association echoed this, but said "if we can get two guns off the street, it would help us more than hurt us."

Pastor Jerry Bishop of Lifequest Church said the focus right now should be on cultivating trust between the police department and the community. 

"When the only time we see an officer is to take our statement after a shooting, and no where else well, no, someone is not going to talk to you. We are at a place where trust is at an all time low," he said. 

Bishop said what the community needs is an initiative financed outside of law enforcement, and that other initiatives can be financed while still respecting and supporting the police leadership.

Nationally, there isn't a strong consensus on the effectiveness of gun buyback programs. However, studies from both the Journal of Trauma and Acute Surgery and Current Trauma Reports found that buyback programs, in conjunction with other methods, have reduced gun violence. However, as a standalone program, it has not been proven to be successful. 

The fiscal committee agreed to send the proposal to Tuesday night's city commission meeting where city leaders will further discuss the possible implementation of the buyback program. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. 

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