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4 assault weapons among guns surrendered in Buffalo City pays $34,645 to buy back firearms in program to keep them off the streets

Four assault weapons and 275 handguns were among the weapons surrendered during an Aug. 15 buyback, according to a final audit that will be presented to Buffalo's Common Council today.

The city also received 230 rifles or shotguns and 202 non-working or antique weapons, according to a report issued by the city comptroller.

People who turned in weapons received prepaid bank cash cards that ranged from $10 to $100, depending on the type of gun. The city financed the $34,645 in payouts by tapping into asset forfeiture funds recovered during drug seizures and other criminal investigations.

Comptroller Andrew A. SanFilippo's office stopped short of taking sides in the debate over whether gun buybacks help deter crimes. Some studies have indicated the programs are ineffective in reducing crime rates or getting potentially harmful guns off the streets. Opponents have long argued that the guns usually turned in during buybacks are not the types of weapons that are used in deadly crimes.

But Mayor Byron W. Brown and Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson believe such buybacks help reduce crime. Supporters have argued that many weapons used to
commit crimes are guns that have been stolen from homes during burglaries.

The audit filed with the Council suggests that buybacks have merit.

"One can argue whether removing these guns has an effect on crime, but there can be no doubt that keeping these weapons out of the hands of untrained persons promotes safety and prevents tragedies," Deputy Comptroller Darby R. Fishkin wrote in a summary she submitted to city lawmakers.

Chief auditor Darryl McPherson prepared the final report showing that 711 weapons were turned in during the "no questions asked" buyback. The audit found that four handguns were incorrectly classified as assault weapons, while one handgun was logged as a rifle/shotgun.

The gun buybacks held in the past three years have resulted in 2,312 weapons being taken off the streets, according to city records. Other strategies launched by the Police Department resulted in thousands of additional guns being seized since 2006, officials said. The comptroller's office also credited Richard F. Calipari, the city's investment and debt management officer, for helping to coordinate the program that provided debit cards to people who turned in weapons.

City officials have not ruled out holding more gun buybacks.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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