GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Tuesday night, the Grand Rapids City Commission approved a gun buyback program proposed by the police department as a method to address gun violence in the city.
The proposal requests using $20,000 from the city's SAFE Task Force for the program and promotion of it. The funding for the program was discussed turning the morning fiscal committee meeting, and the commissioners approved the funding for the program on the consent agenda.
There have been 23 homicides in the city of Grand Rapids so far this year. This exceeded last year's total of 18 homicides. Police have said the gun buyback program will help get illegal guns off the streets, with the goal of reducing violence.
Commissioner Joe Jones of the 2nd Ward said the violence over the past several months has been "heartbreaking." He said the gun buyback program elicits many opinions, but it has value.
"It has the potential to get a few guns off the street, and that's a good thing," he said.
Kurt Reppart, a 1st Ward Commissioner, did not address the gun buyback program, but he mentioned he is fully in support of Cure Violence, a program that works to interrupt violence.
Second Ward Commissioner Milinda Ysasi said she doesn't believe a gun buyback program is a "be all, end all," but that it's long been discussed by the SAFE Task Force. In the fiscal committee meeting, Ysasi had questions about how the success of the program would be measured.
Commissioners Jon O'Connor, Nathaniel Moody and Senita Lenear did not address the buyback program Tuesday night. O'Connor has said he supports the program, but expressed concern in the earlier fiscal meeting about the buyback not offering enough money for weapons.
Some members of the community have questioned the buyback program's effectiveness, wondering if that funding should go toward other initiatives to address gun violence.
One man who called into the city commission during the public comment section of the meeting said the gun buyback program is a "horrible" idea. "Take that to the back and shoot it," he said of the idea.
The police department is still determining the logistics, but it said other communities have offered $50 to $200 per gun. A portion of the $20,000 will go toward community engagement to determine how best to carry out the project, according to those involved.
The program is slated to begin in October.
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