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Reed organizing a crowd-funded St. Louis gun buyback program

St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed is organizing a gun buyback program.

Amid an increasing tide of gun violence throughout St. Louis, the president of the Board of Aldermen is trying to organize a gun buyback program.

St. Louis Board of Aldermen Lewis Reed told St. Louis Public Radio earlier this week that he’s setting up a gun buyback program through a crowd-funded site known as Gun by Gun. While the site isn’t operational yet, the idea is to get St. Louis residents to trade in their guns for money received from crowd-funding.

“The reason we’re doing a gun buyback program is because we need to get guns off the street and reduce the number of gun violence cases across the city,” Reed said in an interview. “Across the last five years, there have been over 13,000 incidents of crimes related to guns. Either somebody is being robbed or somebody being shot by a gun or a gun being involved in it. So we know that when you take guns off the street, it has a direct impact.”

Reed said the St. Louis Police Department has agreed to ultimately destroy the weapons that are turned in through the buyback program.

Getting the buyback program off the ground hasn’t come without some statutory challenges. Back in 2013, the Missouri General Assembly passed a law barring gun buyback programs unless:

  • A governmental entity “has adopted a resolution, ordinance, or rule authorizing the participation of the county, municipality, or governmental body, or participation by an agent of the county, municipality, or governmental body, in such a program.”
  • The law also stipulates that “any firearm remaining in the possession of the county, municipality, or governmental body after the firearm has been offered for sale or trade to at least two licensed firearms dealers may be destroyed.”

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen already passed a resolution authorizing the gun buyback program. And as for the licensed firearms dealers requirement, Michael Powers, who serves as Reed’s legislative director, said in an e-mail that “we will conform with the law, have discussed our options with the AG (attorney general) and have a good, legal path forward.”

Reed said one of the unique differences between this gun buyback program and what has been done in the past “is it allows the average person to take part in reducing the number of gun violence cases that are happening across the city or the communities in which they live.

"Because the average person can go out and donate anything from $10 or $20 or whatever – and [all] of those funds are going directly to removing a weapon off the street,” Reed said. “And we know that the guns that are being used to commit crimes are largely illegal weapons. And those weapons started out being a legal weapon that was stolen from somebody.”

The Democratic official said this initiative is a better alternative than taking a weapon to a pawn shop or a gun dealer.

“The benefit of doing it this way for the community we’re taking guns off the street. That’s the direct benefit,” Reed said. “The benefit for the person that is turning it in is they know that gun will be destroyed, right? It’s not going to cycle back out to the community. And the other thing is this is a no questions asked. So they turn the gun in and it’s not like the police department going to ask for all their records and everything for that gun.”

Reed said the crowd funding website should be up and running by next week.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.