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Grand Rapids City Commission passes 'needed' gun buyback program

City leaders say people will be able to turn in guns for gift cards this summer.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The City of Grand Rapids is bringing back a gun buyback program for the first time in years. The City Commission approved it Tuesday night as an incentive to get guns off the streets.

This is the city's first gun buyback program since 2020, when nearly 300 weapons were collected. 

The consent agenda was passed quickly at Tuesday night's Grand Rapids City Commission meeting. The approval from city leaders means $40,000 in funding to the city's safe task force to lead the program. 

"This means working with community organizations to share that there'll be a gun buyback, [and] selecting a location" Second Ward Commissioner Milinda Ysasi says. "In the past, we've selected community locations that feel safe and comfortable to individuals, [and] coordinating with our police department, because there are requirements about how guns are disposed and appropriating the right dollar."

In 2020, 267 weapons were collected and disposed of during two buyback programs.

Commissioner Ysasi says this time around, while all the guns will be accepted, only those turning in assault rifles, semi-automatic, handguns, revolvers, shotguns and rifles will be given gift cards.

"Now, we can get them disposed of and hopefully, you know, prevent even just one act of violence with a gun that we have taken off [the streets]," she says.

"I think that it's needed," LifeQuest Ministries Pastor Jerry Bishop says. "It could be effective."

He says more needs to be done to prevent gun violence.

"Until we create a space where our entire community is having a conversation about this year round, we will only have seasonal gun buybacks, while I'm burying murder victims in every season," Pastor Bishop says. 

He hopes to see more meaningful conversations about gun violence in the community because some people may feel nervous about turning in a weapon to city police or government.

"I've already recovered 13 hand guns in 2022. And it hasn't cost our ministry a dime. We work transparently with people. We work confidentially with many young people, parents that are simply saying, 'I don't want to be a part of this life. But I don't want to be a part of initiative,'" Pastor Bishop says. "And I think that that's the segment of our community confidence that's lacking."

The exact details of this year's program, like where and when, are still being worked out. City leaders say it will happen this summer.

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