Gun buyback program leaves uncertainty with ‘no questions asked’ policy

Local News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The anonymity expected to be granted during a gun buyback program in Providence and Central Falls later this month could have unintended consequences, according to 12 News law enforcement analyst Steven O’Donnell.

The program, which begins on Oct. 17, allows people to anonymously drop off unwanted firearms, “without questions or consequence from authorities,” Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said.

“Every gun that we take off the street is going to make us all safer and keep all our kids safe,” Elorza said.

The program will provide a $100 Visa gift card for a rifle or shotgun, $200 for a handgun and $500 for a firearm that has been reported stolen.

12 News took a closer look at the program’s policies, which states all of the firearms that are turned in will not be tested to see whether they’re connected to any open criminal investigations.

O’Donnell said that policy could destroy the answer to an unsolved crime.

“If you have a gun in your house and you’re not using it or if its a family heirloom, take it in and you can get money back,” O’Donnell said. “Yes, it takes it off the street forever, but there are other guns, stolen guns that people use in crimes.”

He said while he understands the importance of the program and why it must remain anonymous, he’s worried police will be destroying key pieces of evidence.

“Having a weapon tells a story. It tells a forensic story. Having a firearm that isn’t tested through the firearm database, you can be giving away critical evidence in a homicide or major shooting,” O’Donnell said.

12 News reached out to the Providence Police Department on the program and its policies.

In a statement, the department said: “The decision was made not to test these firearms as part of the “no questions asked” policy that has been successful here and in other places. The Mayor and our Public Safety leadership agree that removing guns off our streets that could potentially cause our residents harm is the top priority and goal of the program.”

People can bring their unwanted guns to two locations on Saturday, Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at either the DaVinci Center in Providence or the Knights of Columbus in Central Falls.

Those who can’t make it on that day can email gunamnesty@providenceri.com to schedule a time to surrender a gun.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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