New London raises possibility of gun buyback plan

New London - With the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School still fresh on his mind, City Council President Michael Passero wants a discussion about getting guns off the streets.

And Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio agrees.

Both city leaders are looking into possible gun buyback programs.

At Monday's City Council meeting, Passero raised the idea of a gun buyback program through the police department. The item was sent to the Public Safety Committee for further review.

"I'm not necessarily advocating for it,'' Passero said Monday before the meeting. "But I want to have a discussion about it. I want to get the issue out there, get the debate started and have a committee meeting with professionals who can answer our questions."

In 2007, the City Council looked into a similar program but the proposal died in committee, he said.

On Monday, Finizio said he wants to push for ways to get more firearms off the streets. But the city has no money to fund such a program, he said. City staff is looking at possible programs that could include handing out gift certificates or gift cards in lieu of cash.

"I've also instructed the police department to examine any federal or state grants that may be available,'' Finizio said.

The Office of Development and Planning could also be involved, he said, and could approach businesses and nonprofits to ask for donations of gift certificates of gift cards that could be exchanged for firearms.

"Wherever you are on the gun control debate, there's common ground, everyone seems to agree, you lessen the risk (violent crime with guns) if you can lower the number of guns in society and make sure those who have guns are law abiding. It reduces the risk for everyone in society," he said. "The debate shouldn't stop us from trying to reduce the number of guns on the street, and disrupt the trade and trafficking of illegal guns."

The city could also hold an amnesty program, in which illegal firearms are turned in with no questions asked, he said.

"There are many different ways to go about this,'' Finizio said. "We welcome the council's input."

For the program to be successful, Passero added, the entire community needs to get involved in the discussion.

"Maybe someone can step forward,'' he said. "We need community partners to put up the rewards."

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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