Hartford to Host Another Gun Buyback; Initiatives Expand in State

Five months after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown and a month after the state legislature approved a package of stricter gun control regulations, the Hartford region is conducting another gun buyback program on May 18.

The Capital Region Gun Buyback Coalition includes three of the area's major hospitals, law enforcement officials and community organizations to heighten awareness about gun violence prevention.  The expanding coalition, which began in 2009, now includes faith-based groups, the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association, Stop & Shop, and other Hartford-area community organizations.

The program will provide Stop & Shop gift cards to individuals who turn in operable firearms:   $150.00 for an assault rifle; $75.00 gift card for a handgun/revolver; and a $25.00 gift card for a shotgun or rifle. The buyback is to be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Community Renewal Team headquarters, 555 Windsor Street.  Guns may be turned in anonymously.  The gun buyback is open to all Connecticut residents.

Firearm violence is described by Hartford city officials as a major public health problem.  Removing unwanted guns from the community, they add, prevents children and criminals from accessing these weapons. Non-working guns, black-powder weapons, BB guns, flare guns and ammunition may be turned in, but will not be eligible for a gift card, according to Hartford police officials. Ammunition and inoperable firearms can also be anonymously tgunbuybackurned in but aren't eligible for a reward. Every gun received Saturday will be destroyed unless forensic testing indicates that it was used in a crime.

Last December, the Capitol Region Gun Buyback coalition traded more than $10,000 in gift cards for guns in an effort to get firearms off the streets. The unofficial count for the gun buyback in Hartford on December 1, 2012 – just two weeks before the Newtown tragedy - was 179 working firearms collected, including 145 handguns and 34 rifles/shotguns.  New Haven held a gun buyback program later than month, collecting a reported 128 weapons, just days after the shootings in Newtown.

In February this year, Bridgeport’s gun buyback program took in about 650 guns, including about three dozen assault weapons, the Connecticut Post reported.   In New London in March, over 40 handguns, 38 long guns and one assault rifle, an AK 47, were turned in, according to The Day of New London.

Gun Buyback programs have a history in Connecticut that began almost two decades ago with an overwhelming response in 1994, when then-Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, with the support of the Connecticut Retail Merchants Association and the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, launched the nation’s first statewide program.

The response to that new initiative was far beyond all predictions – more than 4,200 guns, including 210 assault weapons, were turned in within less than a week.  That brought the statewide initiative to an end and required some state support by then-Gov. Lowell P. Weicker to fill in the gaps left by retailers and corporations that stepped up to support the initiative.

The approach has continued across the state.  Gun buyback programs in Connecticut municipalities – including Hartford, Waterbury, Bridgeport (55 weapons including rifles and handguns in 2010) and New Haven ( a total of 81 weapons in 2011 and 2012) -  have been more limited but continue to be successful, taking into account the lessons of the state’s initial effort in 1994 and the need to take varying approaches to limit gun violence.

The first of three Hartford gun buyback programs planned for 2013 is led by a collaboration that includes Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Hartford Hospital, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center (WNPR audio interview), the City of Hartford, Hartford Police Department, Hartford State’s Attorney’s Office, CT Trial Lawyers Association,  Community Renewal Team of Greater Hartford, Emergency Nurses Association and Hope Street Ministries.