San Juan County Sheriff’s Office investigates gun buyback event
FARMINGTON, N.M. – An organization known for its gun buyback events is under investigation. It comes after the group dismantled guns over the weekend.
Farmington’s official Safe Surrender Gun Buyback event was canceled three days before it was supposed to happen.
San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari says he’s trying to find out whether or not the gun buyback events New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence does are legal.
He said the investigation comes after community members reached out to him with that question.
“I’m still not understanding how these transactions are taking place without a background check,” San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari said.
It’s all centered around a New Mexico law that says the sale of a firearm without a background check is unlawful. There are a few exceptions to the law, but Ferrari says he doesn’t know how the nonprofit falls into the mix.
“There are four exemptions where somebody would not have to undergo a background check. The first is if there’s an FFL involved, and the second is if it’s sold to law enforcement. The third is a law enforcement to law enforcement officers conducting a transaction between each other. And of course, [the] last is to an immediate family member. So I didn’t see where [New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence] fell into this.”
New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence actually helped pass that law. The group’s co-President Miranda Viscoli explained the difference between what the group did last weekend versus what she says would be unlawful.
“It would be a different situation if we were going to somebody’s house and taking that firearm, not dismantling it, putting it in our car, giving them a gift card and driving away. That would go against the background check law. The fact that we’re dismantling it on site to the point where it can never be used again. We’re giving them a gift card for not even close to the value of the gun is basically a ‘Thank you’ for this metal and scraps,” Viscoli said.
Of the nine guns they collected last Saturday, Viscoli says they only gave out one gift card after the gun was taken apart.
Ferrari says the group isn’t destroying the guns per ATF’s guidelines.
“The picture they show [on X] shows a pile of guns that have been cut in half. Well, ATF doesn’t consider those guns destroyed. They can still consider that a firearm,” Ferrari said.
Viscoli says the sheriff can investigate, but it’s not only the group that’s being targeted.
“It is causing us hardship and that we’re getting a lot of people who are being extremely aggressive to me as a person, and I don’t like feeling not safe. We will continue to legislate for policy and laws that helped make our community safer from gun violence. This does nothing to deter us, it only makes us stronger and better,” Viscoli said.
Ferrari says he’s not against New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence. He says he understands they want to get unwanted guns off the street.
He also said he does not condone any threats against the group.