Ban on gun buybacks approved by Senate, faith leaders react

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Faith leaders are fired up over a bill that bans local governments and law enforcement agencies from having gun buyback programs. Senate lawmakers approved Bill 229 by a 28-21 vote Thursday.

Supporters of the bill said the measure aims to get a bigger bang for taxpayer’s buck. Others said it’s stopping their efforts to keep weapons off the streets.

“This is just a piece of Disneyland legislation,” said Dr. Michael Bluitt of Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Indianapolis. “Why would you put a ban on something that’s so needed at a time like this?”

The non-profit sponsored one of the biggest buyback programs in July 2012. In three hours, 250 firearms were taken in.

“They came as far as Richmond, Muncie, Anderson, Kokomo,” said Rev. Fitzhugh Lyons, IMA President. “You’ve got to keep going until you’ve got more and more [weapons] off the street.”

State Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, author of the measure, said it’s not worth taxpayers’ money to purchase the guns, destroy them, then sell the firearms at low prices for scrap metal.

“This is a win-win for responsible gun owners and law enforcement,” Tomes wrote in a statement. “It doesn’t make sense for law enforcement agencies to pay to destroy firearms and forego potential revenue.”

Instead, Tomes hopes the bill would allow weapons seized by law enforcement agencies to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Those funds would go towards training activities and purchasing equipment like firearms, ammunition, and bulletproof vests for local police departments.

“I fully agree with that, but you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” said Dr. Bluitt.

Opponents worry the measure foregoes community efforts to get guns out of the hands of people who don’t want them, and criminals who do.

“Whether these gun buybacks are effective or not effective, I think it’s subject to debate,” said Terry Curry, Marion County Prosecutor. “Nevertheless, even if they are completely ineffective, the entire intent is to take guns off the street.”

Senate Bill 229 now heads to the House for further consideration.