The administration said Monday it plans to stop funding gun buybacks at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The program gave local police departments as much as $500,000 to buy guns in and around public housing projects for around $50 each. The guns taken in were then destroyed.
“We accumulated 75 guns between the two buybacks,” said Bill Vasser, coordinator of the buybacks for Rome Housing Authority. “At $50 apiece, that worked out to $3,750 we spent on the program. I think this is a very reasonable amount. It went even better than we anticipated.”
The program took about 20,000 guns off the streets in 80 cities in its first year, according to HUD estimates.
Rome Housing Authority buybacks were held May 13, 2000, and June 23.
Vasser said Romans sold their guns for a variety of reasons. Several sellers said they had had a child since they bought their gun and did not want a gun in the house with their child, he said.
Recovered guns ranged from small .22-caliber handguns to AK-47 replicas.
“If we look at the success in Rome and Floyd County, the recovered weapons were consistent with the types of guns commonly used in crimes,” said Vasser. “Many people were concerned that if they sold their guns to anyone else, the gun would be used to commit a crime.”
Rome Police Chief Hubert Smith said ending the program will have some negative effects on the community.
“I support the gun buyback program,” he said. “Every gun that comes off the street is one less we have to worry about.”
Smith said the greatest effect of the funding cuts will be in public housing.
“Our public housing program is a good one,” he said. “It plays an important role in making public housing a better environment to live in. Rome’s police work hand-in-hand with the Rome Housing Authority, and we have helped people be safe in public homes.”
The $15 million program began in November 1999 under the Clinton administration.
Kevin Morison, spokesman for the Washington, D.C., police, said, “It would be hard to believe that not one of the weapons we took off the streets” would have been used in a crime.
But other people have questioned the legality of the program. A General Accounting Office study requested by Rep. James Walsh, R-N.Y., claimed that HUD could not buy guns with funds meant to help eliminate illegal drugs.
The program’s opponents also say there is no evidence it has removed criminals’ guns from the streets or lowered the death rate from firearms.
“The success of these programs has never been demonstrated in any study,” National Rifle Association lobbyist John Frazer said in a discussion Monday.
Gun control advocates saw the move as further evidence of a Bush administration push to erode gun laws.
A few weeks ago, Attorney General John Ashcroft shortened the amount of time that gun purchasers’ instant-background-check records can be kept by the government from 90 days to just 24 hours.
“It’s sad, but not surprising, to see George Bush and the Republicans turning their party into a wholly owned subsidiary of the gun lobby,” said former HUD secretary Andrew Cuomo, who launched the buyback program.
Cuomo is currently seeking the Democratic nomination for governor of New York.
HUD is simply cutting off funds, the agency suggested.
HUD officials said that while funding for the program was being eliminated, individual housing authorities could still take the liberty of running buyback programs with their own money if they chose to.
“This is clearly not part of the core mission of HUD,” spokeswoman Nancy Segerdahl said Monday.
She said that HUD was focusing on affordable housing and was no longer participating in the Communities for Safer Guns Coalition begun by Cuomo.
Officials at HUD said funding for the buyback program was cut because the program could make no guarantees that it was decreasing the supply of guns to criminals nor make any assurance that lawbreakers were surrendering their wea-pons.
HUD said buybacks remove only 1 to 2 percent of guns from the streets. HUD also said that public housing authorities have shown little interest in making use of the program.
Only 100 of the 1,000 housing authorities were participating, they said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report