Buffalo gun buyback brings in 840 firearms in exchange for gift cards (VIDEO)

More than 100 firearms were collected during the first hour. Three hours later, that number had increased to nearly 500. (Photo: WGRZ)

More than 100 firearms were collected during the first hour. Three hours later, that number had increased to nearly 500. (Photo: WGRZ)

A gun buyback held in Buffalo, New York, Saturday brought in a total of 840 firearms, with participants receiving prepaid credit cards in amounts ranging from $10 to $100.

The number of guns collected this year was up from 760 last year, local media reported, and it was the second-highest number collected since the program’s inception seven years ago. Mayor Byron Brown and other officials in the city claim the buybacks are successful at getting unwanted weapons off the streets and out of the hands of criminals, and as a result, reduce violence in the city.

“Getting this number of guns off the street at one time has to have an effect,” said Police Commissioner Dan Derenda. “I know we have critics of the Gun Buyback Program and I totally disagree with that.”

Of the guns collected, 258 – or nearly one-third – were handguns. According to authorities, several of those had the serial numbers scratched off, indicating they had likely already been on the street. Although the buyback program works on a “no questions asked” basis, authorities said most of the surrendered weapons are simply guns which were no longer wanted.

In addition to handguns, which fetched a prepaid credit card in the amount of $75, authorities also saw shotguns, which warranted a $50 card, and AR rifles which came with the most value at $100 cards. Even broken guns and antique firearms, as well as BB and pellet guns yielded a $10 gift card. The money for the gift cards was taken from seized assets.

“That gun can no longer harm anyone,” Derenda said. “Our biggest issue right now is 50 percent or more of the guns that are coming in are taken in burglaries and they’re used in crime here.”

However, not everyone agrees the buyback programs are an effective means to reduce violence and some say it’s only the law-abiding citizens who are trading their guns for gift cards.

“I don’t think it works. All the people doing the shooting ain’t turning their guns in,” said program participant, Eric Earthman.

But in the wake of recent violence, including two teens fatally shot just last week, city officials are desperate for ways to reduce the violence.

“Maybe if that 28-year-old had stopped for a moment and thought, ‘There’s going to be a gun buyback on Saturday,’ instead of being in prison having taken the life of a 14-year-old, they’d have another $50 in their pocket and no lives would be impacted,” Brown said.

“If we can get one gun, and just one gun, that might be used to harm a member of our community,” Brown added. “Then the gun buyback is all worth it.”