ASHTABULA — Concerned with a spike in gun-related crimes on city streets, one city councilman wants to launch a gun buyback program.
Ward 2 Councilman August Pugliese brought up the buyback idea after City Council passed an ordinance Monday appropriating $11,014 from unappropriated law enforcement trust fund to a law enforcement trust operating fund, where money can be used for DARE and other programs designed to educate adults and children on the dangers of drug abuse.
Pugliese said there’s a lot of anxiety out on the streets of Ashtabula, specifically from the recent shootings and murders.
James Anderson, 24, of Youngstown, was shot several times shortly after 6 p.m. March 22 on a West 43rd Street sidewalk, according to police reports. He died in the emergency room at a Cleveland hospital. Police have a suspect in custody.
Then, on Easter Sunday, Richard Riddle, 53, of Ashtabula, was shot and killed outside his church, according to police reports. Police charged Riddle’s son, Reshad Riddle, with the crime, according to police and court records.
“If we could buy back 100 guns, or even 10, it would help,” Pugliese said. “People are anxious, afraid.”
City Solicitor Michael Franklin said, “The guns we are reading about are being brought in from Youngstown and Cleveland to do bad things.”
Pugliese said he believes a gun buyback campaign is something the city should consider as part of a larger strategy for getting illegal firearms off the streets. These include raising public awareness of the gun problem.
Council Vice President Christopher McClure said the issue should be sent to council’s safety forces committee, chaired by Ward 1 Councilman Richard Balog.
“We’ll take it on,” Balog said.
But questions remained on exactly how to do it and whether the effort would be worth the cost.
Since December, the state of New Jersey has spent $1.2 million on five buybacks and taken in 9,000 firearms, including rocket launchers, assault weapons and submachine guns, according to NJ Spotlight.com.
In California, a Solano County gun buyback program recently netted nearly 350 guns, including several assault rifles and a military rocket launcher, according to mercurynews.com.
In 2012, the city of Lawrence, Mass., recovered 71 firearms and they say shootings decreased 36 percent while homicides decreased by 80 percent, according to cityoflawrence.com. Consequently, the city launched its first no-questions-asked buyback event, slated for May 11.
Lawrence’s city leaders say it’s purposely set on the day before Mother’s Day — to give mothers “peace of mind.”