Courtesy of Seattle Police
A Seattle Police Officer displays a Stinger missile launcher tube recovered during the Gun Buyback event on Jan. 26. 712 guns were recovered in exchange for $68,000 in gift cards.

Gun Buyback Event took over 700 firearms out of the community

On Jan. 26, the Seattle Police Department set up shop underneath I-5 between Cherry and James Street where they handed out gift cards in exchange for firearms. The event was supposed to run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., but so many people showed up they ran out of gift cards and had to shut it down after four hours, with the promise of another event in the future.

712 guns were recovered (364 rifles, 348 pistols) and, the most unique item of the day, a Stinger missile launcher tube. While a few (those considered inoperable) will be given to local artists to incorporate into their work, the rest will meet their doom by being melted down at the Nucor steel plant in West Seattle and turned into rebar. $68,000 in gift cards were handed out in return.

The event was sponsored by Seattle and King County leadership and several businesses and private citizens chipped in, including $30,000 in gift cards from Amazon.

“There was clearly a lot of pent up demand for a gun buyback,” Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said in a statement. “I’m pleased that so many people were able to safely dispose of unwanted guns.“

“Hundreds of homes in King County are safer today, with these unwanted guns out of the house,” King County Executive and West Seattle resident Dow Constantine said. “The turnout shows the demand is there, and I think all those who donated funds to provide the financial incentive.”

King County Sheriff John Urquhart said the event was an opportunity for people to safely get guns out of their homes. “It is a much better choice to remove an unwanted gun from a home rather than leave it where it can be stolen and used in a crime.”

Seattle Police said there were several private gun buyers posted up around the event attempting to offer a better deal than the gift cards, but “very few members of the public chose to sell their weapons, preferring to participate in the gun buyback.”

Current Washington State law allows residents to sell guns privately without a background check, which has become an issue of debate at state and national levels as the country grapples with ways to reduce high-profile mass shootings like the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy in Connecticut and the Café Racer shootings in Seattle.

Much buzz was created around the Stinger missile launcher tube (there was no actual missile inside) collected during the buyback. The man walking around with the intimidating tool of war was informed it is, in fact, illegal to possess controlled military items and he told police he had just purchased it from someone at the event for $100. Police took possession of the tube and said they would contact the Army Criminal Investigation Division in an attempt to trace how it made its way out of military hands into the general public. SPD said such items are supposed to be accounted for by the military until they are ultimately destroyed.

The man said he would take a $100 gift card in exchange for the tube, but made it clear he would rather get it back as a keepsake if legally possible.

SPD also wished to remind residents they can always drop off unwanted firearms at their local police precinct. It is probably a good idea to contact the precinct first (Southwest Precinct's phone number is (206) 733-9800) to let them know you are coming with guns.

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