There are many who think getting guns off the streets and out of the wrong hands will make America’s neighborhoods safer. Some want better federal intervention. Others, such as Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. want citizens to take a bigger role. Payne spoke to NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams about one way to do it.
Williams: What are the main components of the Safer Neighborhoods Gun Buyback Act?
Payne: What it does is it allows the Department of Justice to secure a $360 million grant in order to buyback old guns, get guns off the street and incentivizw getting these guns back out of the hands of people that might not need to have them.
Williams: My impression from looking at gun buyback research is that very often it doesn’t work because the guns being brought back are great grandpa’s rifle that hasn’t been fired in 50 years. Are those the kind of guns you need to get off the streets?
Payne: No, actually we’ve identified through the ATF the 10 most used guns in street crimes. We have incentivized return of those guns by up to 25 percent over the market value of the gun. You would receive a debit card where once you turn in the gun. You get a debit card and that can be used for anything. You can’t get cash for it and you can’t use it to purchase guns. If they were tried to use in that manner there’s a possibility of a two year jail sentence, and that goes along with using it illegally. So, 25 percent over the retail cost of the gun and we think that is a great incentive in order to bring them back.
Williams: Voluntary as opposed to mandatory. In Australia they had a mandatory buyback program after a terrible crime was committed there and it worked, but it was mandatory. Is voluntary going to work?
Payne: You know, with the issue that we have with the NRA and their strong lobby in this country it hasn’t allowed my colleagues to do the right thing. If we cannot come up with sensible gun legislation after Sandy Hook, seeing the terrible tragedy there with all of those babies, then it seems a far stretch that we can mandate anything in this country. It would have to start with volunteer.
Williams: Is there the remotest possibility that this gets through Congress?
Payne: It’s going to be very difficult, I admit, but that does not say that I won’t continue to stress the issues that are important to my community and my constituents. This is something they would like to see. We know what discouraging guns means in these communities, so it’s up to me, and it’s incumbent upon me, to continue to fight and keep the message alive that this is something that we need to do.
Williams: Do you have sponsors, co-sponsors, for this bill?
Payne: I have several co-sponsors, and we are continuing to gain sponsors, but it’s a tough road to haul.
Williams: Why do you suppose the NRA is so strong a lobby in Washington when it represents a fraction of the American public?
Payne: It baffles me. I don’t understand. I guess they are great contributors to the other side. That’s the only think I can think of. I’ve just been able to almost silence the whole notion of ever having common sense gun legislation. Nobody wants to take away anyone’s guns that has a right to have them. It is the second amendment of the Constitution that says we have the right to bear arms and we understand that, but we need to look at our country and see what is going on and we have to do something in order to stop this terrible trend.
Williams: This state has a very restrictive gun control set of laws and principles, but we still get guns on our streets all the time. Where are they coming from?
Payne: They come up Route 95 from Virginia, they’re coming from Pennsylvania and West Virginia, from Ohio, from Florida. That is really the problem here. It’s not necessarily in state issues, it’s the guns that are coming from out of state.
Williams: If this doesn’t work are you going to try something else?
Payne: We’ll continue to beat the drums to make sure that this stays in the forefront of the American people’s consciousnesses.