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GUN-BUYBACK PROGRAM HAS A SERIOUS FLAW

At first glance, a federal department's offer to fork over money to help cities buy and destroy firearms looks great. . . . A second glance, however, shows signs of a classic dilemma.

In order to get the federal gun-buyback money, cities have to divert their own anti-drug money into the new buyback program. So, we have the unusual picture of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo announcing "in the memory of Columbine the Buyback America program" at the same time that every city in Columbine's home state of Colorado was announcing that they wouldn't take part in the program. . . .

Under the program, city housing agencies operating under HUD are encouraged to buy and destroy unwanted firearms. The gun buybacks give cash or gift certificates ranging from $25 to $150 for each firearm. . . .

A total of 84 cities have signed up. . . . But many cities are passing on the opportunity. The reason: Local housing agencies must spend $100 of their own drug-fighting money on the buyback program to get an additional $43 from HUD. . . .

While an initial goal of buying back 50,000 guns in 84 cities received much attention, critics were questioning whether the program would produce false claims instead of genuine progress in cutting down crime.

That's not the basis for the objection registered by most cities. It's the necessity of having to choose between two approaches -- buying back firearms, or fighting illicit drugs. . . .

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