SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Syracuse is one of many cities participating in New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ statewide gun buyback program.
Saint Lucy’s Food Pantry on Gifford Street is hosting a gun buyback on Saturday with the help of the Syracuse Police Department. Saint Lucy’s joins eight other locations around New York State accepting firearms in exchange for monetary compensation – no questions asked.
Syracuse Police Sergeant Thomas Blake said they’re not trying to get anyone in trouble.
“We set up a place where basically we offer amnesty so folks can bring in rifles, handguns, shotguns, whatever they have that they’d like to turn in,” Blake said. “We’ll give them gift cards for doing that and specific amounts depending on what they’re turning over to us.”
The compensation varies depending on the type of firearm
- $500 for an assault rifle or ghost gun
- $150 for a handgun
- $500 for the first handgun a person brings in
- $75 for a rifle or shotgun
- $25 for a non-working gun, a replica, an antique, a homemade gun, or a 3D printed gun
SPD is hoping it will recover enough firearms this weekend to negate how many are flowing into our region. Blake said guns still end up in Central New York, even with strict state and local laws.
“Down south, it’s much easier to get your hands on guns like this,” Blake said. “So a lot of times, what we’re finding is that these guns are being transported here from further down state. The other problem is that we have legal gun owners, unfortunately, sometimes they leave handguns in their unsecured cars and they get stolen by people that are rifling through cars or they lose them.”
It’s also become increasingly difficult to control the amount of guns in circulation due to the emergence of “ghost guns.” The attorney general is providing the most money for turning them in.
But, what exactly are ghost guns? It’s a firearm that is privately made and untraceable because it doesn’t have a serial number it would normally get from a real manufacturer. Ghost guns are assembled from parts that are either 3D printed or found in a “buy, build, shoot” kit.
Often available online, anybody can buy these kits because they’re not considered guns until they’re assembled. So, anyone from convicted felons to children can get their hands on these.
In 2021, law enforcement found roughly 20,000 ghost guns during criminal investigations and reported them to the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It’s ten times the amount that was recovered in 2016. Blake said it’s something his department continues to see regularly.
“I think the ghost gun thing – that’s huge,” Blake said. “We’re seeing more and more of those. I can tell you when I [joined SPD] 13 years ago, I never even heard of a ghost gun. With internet suppliers, it’s easy to go online and buy different parts and then assemble your own weapon.”
Blake says every time they hold a gun buyback, the department sees more ghost guns turned in than previous times. It’s a trend he expects to continue this weekend.
Still, SPD says it believes with less guns in circulation, firearms will be harder to find, leading to a reduction in violent crime.
The Alternatives to Violence Project runs workshops with people incarcerated for violent crime. Shirley Way, the organization’s office administrator, said the incarcerated people she’s worked with agree – taking more firearms off the streets will reduce gun violence.
“Guns were readily available and offered,” Way said. “Somebody (I’ve worked with) bought an assault rifle and he says once you get it, you’re going to use it – and he did. It would be helpful if there were not so many guns available.”
Syracuse last held a gun buyback in May of 2022 and retrieved 240 firearms. Blake expects the numbers to be even higher this year with more awareness of these events. He said that SPD has units specifically assigned to go on the street and recover illegal handguns.