|Bush Halts HUD Gun Buyback Program|
Declaring them "limited in their effectiveness as a strategy to combat violent and gun-related crimes," the Bush administration has ended the HUD gun buyback program initiated in 1999 by the Clinton administration.
The $15 million program, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and hailed by gun control advocates, provided as much as $500,000 to local police to buy and destroy guns in and around federally funded housing projects.
According to figures disputed by the Bush administration, the Clinton administration claimed the program removed more than 20,000 guns from the streets during 1999-2000.
HUD officials, however, stated that 80 members of Congress had recommended the program be terminated, noting few local housing authorities had requested or planned to request funds for gun buybacks.
Gun control advocates were quick to criticize Bush's action.
"It's been seven months since President Bush took office, and we've seen his administration slowly chipping away at every gun violence prevention measure opposed by the gun lobby," stated U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY). "When the NRA said they'd be working out of the White House, I didn't realize that they'd be setting up offices in all the other departments, too."
In an organization press release, Jim Kessler of the Americans for Gun Safety stated "This is pure payback -- another item the administration is checking off the NRA wish list."
Supporting gun buybacks from within the administration was former Syracuse mayor Roy A. Bernardi, now an assistant HUD secretary, who was quoted in a July 26 Washington Post story as praising the buyback program's operation in Syracuse stating that taking any "unwanted gun out of circulation is a success."
Washington D.C. assistant police chief Terrance W. Gainer told the Washington Post that the buyback program had helped the District reduce its homicide rate, once the highest in the nation. "Measuring prevention is a hard thing to do," he said. "All I can say is, those are guns that won't be used in a crime or by a child or in a domestic violence situation."
The program was officially ended when HUD published a notice in the Federal Register of July 23, 2001, informing their public housing authorities (PHAs) that funds for gun buybacks would no longer be available.
"The purpose of the notice published today is to announce that HUD is terminating funding under its Gun Buyback Violence Reduction Initiative." -- Federal Register, July 23, 2001
The action does not prevent local public housing authorities from conducting gun buybacks using their own money, according to HUD officials. Uses for any unspent money allocated to the gun buyback program will be reprogrammed by HUD and applied to other federal public housing programs.
On May 15, 2001, the Bush administration announced a plan to reduce gun crime by increasing enforcement of existing state and federal gun control laws rather than depending on new federal laws and programs like gun buybacks.
Called Project Safe Neighborhoods, the $550 million, two-year program calls for the hiring of 113 new federal prosecutors to be dedicated strictly to gun law enforcement. In addition, some 600 new state and local gun prosecutors will be added at a cost of around $75 million, according to Attorney General John Ashcroft. [See: Bush - Enforce Existing Gun Laws]
The Bush administration listed four primary reasons for ending the gun buyback program in its Federal Register notice:
- Local housing authorities had shown little interest in applying for funding
- Results of federally funded gun buybacks had been minimal
- Program failed to reduce ownership of guns by criminals
- Guns sold back were not the types of weapons typically used in crimes (many were old or inoperative)
According the administration's Federal Register notice, "The guns of choice for young offenders are fast, firing 9 millimeter or .380 caliber semiautomatic pistols that more often show up in crime records than at sites where buyback programs take place. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, more than one-third, and it is estimated that possibly as many as one-half, of all guns seized from young adults nation-wide are new guns purchased legally within the previous 3 years."
The complete text of HUD's Federal Register notice reveals more of the Bush administrations plans for controlling gun violence.