Gun buyback event canceled in Farmington
FARMINGTON, N.M. — Farmington’s first-ever gun buyback event got called off – just three days before it was supposed to happen. The decision follows a lot of noise on social media.
City Manager Rob Mayes says that based on questions they’ve gotten from the public, he and the city’s Police Chief Steve Hebbe, determined the program had “not received enough advance education and community collaboration prior to scheduling” the event.
That’s according to the following statement from the city’s Facebook page:
City Manager Rob Mayes has announced the suspension of plans to partner in a gun buyback program on Saturday, December 8, in the Farmington Police Department parking lot. Mayes stated, “Based on questions received from the public, Chief Hebbe and I determined it was apparent the program had not received enough advance education and community collaboration prior to scheduling this event.” He added, “We will continue to explore educational opportunities and options to assist the public with safely discarding unwanted firearms.”
The event was supposed to be this Saturday. It was going to be a joint effort between the Farmington Police Department and New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence.
The nonprofit’s copresident Miranda Viscoli told KOB 4 they were planning this event with the city and police for the past 2 years. Under the city’s statement on Facebook, many people in the comments are going back and forth. Some are criticizing the city for even wanting to have the event, implying it infringes on their Second Amendment rights. But Viscoli says the event isn’t political, it’s up to the resident if they want to turn in their guns.
“It’s not anti-gun, you can choose if you want to have your gun dismantled, right. That’s a service to the community. And it’s a needed service to the community,” said Viscoli. “And like I said, we will never know how many lives this gun buyback would have saved. But we know from our previous gun buybacks that they are saving lives.”
Some community members on social media were also surprised law enforcement would want to have this type of event but Viscoli says these types of events help get illegal and unsafe guns out of the wrong hands.
KOB 4 reached out to Farmington city leaders for more information. Mayes says right now, there are no plans to reschedule the gun buyback event or partner with New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence in a different event. He also said social media did not play a role in the decision saying, “The program was originally considered administratively as an operational matter, and therefore not taken to the City Council for formal policy.”
Mayes says going forward, any consideration would be a matter of city council policy. Viscoli says New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence has never had to go through city council for a gun buyback event. This would’ve been their 19th one in the state.
In exchange for the guns, residents would have received a $100 gift card for long guns & pistols, $200 for semi-automatic handguns & rifles, or a $250 gift card for assault weapons. Viscoli says the organization spent $26,000 on the gift cards.
Below are the questions KOB asked City Manager Rob Mayes. His responses are italicized.
New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence tells me they’ve purchased more than $20,000 worth of gift cards, does the city plan to work with them to use those cards at a different event?
The City has no plans for a different event in partnership with New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence.
Are there any plans to reschedule this gun buyback event.
Not at this time.
We see a number of Facebook comments criticizing the city’s participation in this program did that play a part in the city’s decision?
Social media played no role in this decision. The program was originally considered administratively as an operational matter, and therefore not taken to the City Council for formal policy. Ultimately, upon Councilors receiving input from members of the public, the matter and process was reconsidered. Going forward, any future consideration would be a matter of City Council policy.