PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE)– A gun buyback program scheduled for Central Falls and Providence on Saturday will still feature amnesty for those turning in weapons, but the guns will undergo ballistic testing, according to a statement from the Providence Police Department issued Friday afternoon.
The decision forms something of a compromise between Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, members of the city council, and the Providence Fraternal Order of Police.
When the program was first announced in September, the intent was for the weapons to be turned over anonymously, and according to the official city statement, the guns would “not be tested for matches to ongoing cases; and will be destroyed at the end of the buy-back program.”
According to the updated statement issued Friday, however, “police will be conducting ballistic tracing on all firearms that are turned in” at both locations.
“As previously stated, all firearms will be accepted anonymously and with amnesty and will be destroyed as needed based on the results of the ballistic testing,” the statement read.
The decision to offer amnesty was criticized by Providence Fraternal Order of Police President Michael Imondi in September, who had called it “both preposterous and irresponsible.”
“The notion put forth by the city that it could possibly be paying a criminal for, and then giving them amnesty for a firearm used in a crime, or a stolen firearm, then destroying the evidence is just another example of how clueless the mayor is, regardless of the good intent behind the buyback program,” Imondi said in a statement to ABC6 News.
“Make no mistake, the original gun buyback plan was built on smoke and mirrors, a feel good act for public perception; and as we said just a few days ago, it was a ‘win-win’ for the criminal,” Imondi said in the statement, which was posted on the organization’s Facebook page.
“However, now with the sensible changes in the plan, we can at least be assured these firearms will be tested and matched against a crime database and the victims will have a much better chance at receiving the justice they deserve,” Imondi said.
At the Providence City Council meeting Thursday night, some members questioned whether gun buyback programs are effective in stopping crime at all.
Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune said the program was “not the solution to end gun violence.”
LaFortune said she believes the guns turned in at such programs were not typically those used in crimes or suicides, and a culture of “no snitching” among Providence youth would leave the program ineffective.
Councilor David Salvatore, who had sponsored a resolution calling for the repeal of the amnesty clause, said there were no “evidence based social science studies” that showed gun buybacks worked.
In a statement issued October 9, Salvatore said with the amnesty clause, the “program is equivalent to giving a criminal a ‘get out of jail free card’”.
“This sends a clear message to criminals that they can now get rid of their weapons and not face any consequences, while simultaneously being rewarded,” Salvatore said.
The council voted 5-3 to approve a non-binding resolution to repeal the amnesty clause, with three members absent and four abstaining.
The gun buyback is scheduled to happen tomorrow at two locations; in Providence at The DaVinci Center , 470 Charles St., and in Central Falls at the Knights of Columbus, 20 Claremont St.
Both locations will be accepting guns between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.