RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The City of Richmond saw a noteworthy decrease in the number of guns collected through its “Gun Buyback” program this August compared to the high turnout at last year’s inaugural event.
The buyback program encourages citizens to turn in their guns for a monetary reward. The city called last year’s event a major success as it boasted nearly 500 guns taken off the streets and out of homes.
This past June, Richmond City Council voted to spend $80,000 dollars on bringing the buyback program back for a second year. This event took place last month and on Sept. 20, Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards gave the community a look at the results.
“This year, we seized 250 firearms,” Edwards said.
This number signifies a nearly 50% decrease in turnout from the year before. Chief Edwards re-iterated that buyback programs aren’t standalone efforts.
“I’m under no illusion that the hard-core individuals in our city are going to just turn in their guns for a bit of money,” Edwards explained.
This summer’s statistics only included operating guns, whereas last year’s numbers accounted for non-operating weapons taken in; but according to RVA Crime Stoppers, only ten of last year’s nearly 500 fell into that “non-operating” category. Another change worth highlighting is that this year, only city of Richmond residents qualified for the program, which could have skewed the number of weapons turned in too.
“It’s just a piece of the puzzle,” Edwards said.
According to statistics from the Richmond Police Department, there were 51 non-fatal shootings during Operation Safe Summer in 2023, compared to 79 in 2022’s operation.
Chief Edwards discussed other safety efforts, like how the department provided gun safes and locks to members of the community this summer. Officials said they plan to continue to think outside the box to find ways to make the community safer.
“I like to think that every gun has a story and the story ends when it ends up in the hands of the Richmond Police Department,” Edwards said. “Those guns, those 250 guns that we seized will never be picked up by a toddler, used to kill themselves. It will never be found by a grandson who finds his grandfather’s shotgun and decides to take it into one of our schools.
It’s still up in the air whether or not the program will return for another summer, but Chief Edwards said the department still sees this year as a success and RPD representatives told 8News there will be a discussion about bringing it back.