More than 800 firearms collected during Houston's first gun buyback program

The City of Houston held its first gun buyback program Saturday, as part of its One Safe Houston plan, and announced more than 800 firearms were collected. 

BACKGROUND: City of Houston to hold gun buyback program Saturday, exchanging Visa gift cards for guns

Nearly 65 cars lined up to exchange guns in exchange for gift cards during the event, which started at 8 a.m. at Wheeler Ave. Baptist Church, and scheduled initially to end at noon, but lasted well past 7 p.m. As of Sunday morning, city officials said in a press release about 845 firearms were collected and almost $100,000 in gift cards were distributed. 

"We used best practices to plan and hold today's event. I did not know what to expect, and the turnout was overwhelming," Mayor Sylvester Turner said. "The turnout demonstrates there are too many guns on our streets, and people want to get them out of their possession. The gun buyback is not the only solution, but we can and will make our streets safer and help reduce gun violence."

Despite long lines, it was well-received by those participating. 

"This is a program that will work, but it takes an effort of the community to actually come out and participate," said Bilii Mustafaa.

Annie Taylor hopes to see it happen again, adding, "I really wish that they would do it every six months for those that may not want to do it today, but maybe in six months they might have a change of mind."

However, not everyone believed it was an effective way to reduce crime on the streets of Houston. 

"It’s not the answer at all," said Mark Hein. "It’s a good opportunity to make a few dollars."

According to a press release, the process in the gun buyback was no-questions-asked and working condition of the firearm determined the gift card amount. The Houston Police Department would examine each gun to find out if it was stolen, or used in a crime. Afterward, the city noted "HPD will destroy all guns that cannot be returned to their rightful owners or not considered evidence in a crime." 

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HPD Chief Troy Finner noted how thrilled he was by the turnout.  

"I am so proud of our city," he said. "People can say what they want, but time and again, Houstonians step up with common sense and love. I thank all the men and women in uniform and the volunteers who made this day successful. I knew there would be a lot of people, but even I did not think there would be this many people the first time."