Houston-area residents turned in 793 guns on Saturday at the third Gun Buyback event conducted by Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, Sheriff Ed Gonzales and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in their efforts to reduce violent crime and make Houston-area communities safer.
Hundreds of cars lined up at Deussen Park to exchange guns for gift cards funded by American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Commissioner Ellis said gun buybacks are necessary to curtail gun violence sparked by the state’s dangerous gun laws. Since 2009, more people have died in mass shootings in Texas than any other state, according to a report by Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun violence prevention organization. The gun death rate in Texas has increased nearly 16% since 2010, according to the Johns Hopkins Center’s Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence.
“Harris County is mobilizing its resources with absolute urgency in a full-court press to reduce gun violence in our communities,” Commissioner Ellis said. “We may not control gun laws, but we are not powerless to take guns off the street.”
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Said Mayor Turner: “I am grateful for the partnership with Commissioner Ellis and Sheriff Gonzalez. Some people want to diminish the impact of gun buybacks, but we know that every firearm taken off the street is a potential life saved. Gun buybacks could prevent weapons from getting into the hands of a child, preventing someone from committing domestic violence or another criminal act, or stopping someone from committing suicide. Our focus is on saving lives and reducing violence on our streets. I ask people to join the One Safe Houston initiative. By working together, we can make a difference.”
One Safe Houston initiative is a $53 million investment aimed at crime reduction.
Said Sheriff Gonzalez: “Law enforcement is asking the community to join us in helping to remove unwanted guns off the streets and safely turn them in. It is more important now than ever to do all that we can to reduce potential crime and help ensure these guns remain out of the hands of those who commit crimes in our neighborhoods and businesses.”
At Saturday’s buyback, residents – with no questions asked – turned in firearms in exchange for gift cards in the amount of $50, $100, $150 and $200 – depending on the type of gun.
Last year, Commissioner Ellis, in conjunction with the City of Houston, held two gun buybacks that collected about 2,000 weapons. Five others are planned after the February buyback.
“We can’t bring back a life,” Commissioner Ellis said. “But we can buy back a gun and make sure it never falls into the wrong hands or causes harm.”
GIFT CARD ISSUES
Celebration of the “highs” of a successful campaign quickly nose-dived to the lows after complaints flooded in of gift cards not working.
Commissioner Rodney Ellis issued the following statement in response:
“We are hearing reports of problems with the online gift cards issued at today’s gun buyback. To all those who are having issues, please know that we share your frustration and we are working with the gift card vendor, Online Rewards, to make this right. They have informed us that this is technical problem that is being fixed, and promised that the issue will be resolved on Monday. Please redeem your gift card at that time. If you continue to have issues, contact our office at Comm_Ellis@cp1.hctx.net.
We are committed to ensuring that every person who turned in a firearm today gets compensated.”
He provided another update shortly after, explaining that everything was back on track..
“We’ve received confirmation from the vendor that the issue has been resolved and all gift cards are now working. Please reach out to our office if there are any other issues,” Ellis said.