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Pastors urge MKE to give up its guns with buyback program

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Photo by Rebecca Rebholz/rebecca.rebholz@marquette.edu

Photo by Rebecca Rebholz/rebecca.rebholz@marquette.edu

After a summer that saw a rise in gun violence, a group of Milwaukee pastors gathered last week to ask city officials to sponsor a gun buyback program, which they say could remove weapons from the streets and reduce violence in neighborhoods.

The pastors asked the city to allot $50,000 in its 2014 budget to start an anonymous gun buyback program that would allow residents to safely turn over their unwanted weapons. Patrons of the buyback program would receive $100 gift cards for giving up handguns and $200 gift cards for giving up assault weapons. The pastors said the buyback could be held at churches in ZIP codes that have the most violence.

In a press conference Oct. 14, the Rev. Mose Fuller of St. Timothy Community Baptist Church said he and the group of other pastors are determined to do something about the violence.

“If they say no, we’re going to do it anyhow,” Fuller said. “People are tired of the violence.”

Fuller also said his church was part of a community-based gun buyback program in 2005, which collected hundreds of guns.

Although Mayor Tom Barrett’s office expressed support for the program proposed by the pastors, the Rev. John McVicker of Christ the King Baptist Church said his group hasn’t received any real support since the group actually sent out the proposal.

“There’s been no follow-up, and we feel ignored,” McVicker said. “Those were the politically correct responses, and then they leave and hope that it’s the end of it. We want to shine a spotlight on their apathetic attitude toward the serious plight and social crisis that’s happening within our community. We’re not going to be ignored.”

The pastors pointed to past successes in gun buyback programs, such as a program in Camden, N.J., in which authorities collected more than 1,000 guns. The pastors said part of the success of gun buyback programs is the enthusiasm of leaders and the community.

Maggie Jonas, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration, said she thinks that although a gun buyback program might seem like a good idea, people might take violent action because there is money involved.

“I think (gun buyback) is a bad idea because people may resort to violence in order to get more guns and turn them in for cash,” Jonas said. “It could end up causing more problems.”

McVicker said he hopes there will be a buyback program in place by the end of the year, and if the city does not provide the funds, the group will look to businesses, individuals and foundations in the community to take up the program.

So far this year, according to Milwaukee Police Department reports, homicides by firearms are up by 22 percent, sitting at 67, compared with 55 during the same time in 2012. The number of nonfatal shootings is also up, at 435 compared to 413 last year, an increase of about 5 percent.

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