Niagara Gazette

March 6, 2013

Falls cops say first attempt at gun buyback program pays off

Falls cops say first attempt at program pays off

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — It was the kind of gun Falls cops didn’t expect to see at their buyback program.

But when a young boy walked up with his dad, holding a BB gun in his hands, they took it anyway.

“He told us he didn’t want to see anyone get hurt with any kind of gun,” Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto said.

Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, who saw the boy turning in his toy, was so struck by what he saw, he reached into his pocket and handed the lad $10, what police were paying for non-working guns that were turned in.

“I said it was the Mayor’s Special Bonus for participating,” Dyster said. “The impression I had was that (the boy) had heard about (the gun buyback) and wanted to get involved. Maybe it was because of the Newtown tragedy. Maybe he saw kids were hurt and thought, “I’m a kid. I don’t want to get hurt.” It was a poignant moment for me.”

Throughout the five-hour long buyback program, Dyster said he was pleasantly surprised by the public’s response.

“I was skeptical (about the value of the buyback),” the mayor said. “But within the first 15 minutes, I changed my mind.”

It was the steady flow of Falls residents into the Ontario Street fire station, carrying weapons they no longer wanted, that sold Dyster on the program’s value.

“You could see people coming in with guns they didn’t need, didn’t want and didn’t know what to do with,” he said. “It convinced me (the buyback) was needed.”

By the end of the day, city cops had purchased 94 handguns, 56 long guns and two BB guns. DalPorto said the “numbers speak for themselves.”

“I didn’t think we’d get that many,” the police chief said. “Obviously there was a need for this in the community. It did exactly what we wanted it to do. It was an overwhelming success.”

Falls police had said from the time the buyback program was announced that they did not expect criminals to turn in their guns. They said what they hoped for was to take guns that could fall into the hands of criminals off the streets.

“It was a chance for people to do what we wanted,” DalPorto said, “get rid of guns they no longer wanted and eliminate the chance they could be lost or stolen.”

The program paid $100 for assault weapons. $75 for handguns, $50 for long guns like rifles and shotguns and $10 for non-working guns. Only two of the purchased guns, in addition to the two BB guns, were non-working.

Officers even advised some folks that their guns were more valuable than what they were paying.

“We had a few shotguns that were much more valuable (as collector’s items) than what we could offer,” DalPorto said, “so we advised the people they might want to take them to a gun dealer instead.”

The program had the backing of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the support of the city Block Club Council and MAD DADS.

“We had great support from the community,” DalPorto said. “And it was a good day for the community.”