Update: Ithaca Police Department spokesman explains the need for requiring picture ID during upcoming gun buyback.
ITHACA — This collegetown community becomes the latest city announcing a gun buyback program in the wake of shooting deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School earlier this month. As an on-duty police officer in this upstate New York city recovers from being shot by a local drug suspect, the home of Cornell University announced it will start 2013 by purchasing weapons with a premium on assault weapons.
“The goal of the program is to remove unwanted guns from our community before they fall into the hands of those that may do harm,” the Ithaca Police Department announced in a Christmas Day statement. On Jan. 5, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, the IPD along with the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office will pay cash for working firearms, including $200 for assault weapons. It was an assault weapon, like the Bushmaster AR-15, that was used to kill 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook and 12 at a theater in Aurora, Col.
The AR-15, used by Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza and Webster, New York’s William Spengler to kill firemen, is the civilian version of the U.S. military’s M-16, according to Talking Points Memo, which offers a history of both the weapon and its designer. In Ithaca, such weapons will fetch “up to $200″ from local police.
In a twisted result of both the shootings and the resulting outcry for increased oversight of assault weapons, the AR-15 became a hot seller for its manufacturers, gun stores — even Christmas shoppers. The rifle has become so popular, the AR-15 was a popular Christmas gift, according to the Huffington Post.
In Ithaca, gun owners turning in their weapons for cash will get immunity from prosecution but must provide a photo ID for “accounting purposes.” In a sign of how many guns local police are expecting, the buyback program has a three weapon per person cash limit (although more freely-offered guns will be accepted.)
The ID requirement is due to “strict guidelines that govern what we as a police department spend money on, and this program is no different,” Police Department spokesman Jamie Williamson told the Indy. “Its a checks and balance system.”
The measure – along with an early buyback in crime-ridden Camden, NJ – was roundly criticized by conservatives and gun proponents. “The goal of the program is to disarm the public – period,” wrote one comment on The Blaze,
Gun buyback programs are flourishing. Along with Ithaca’s and Camden’s (which brought in more than 1,100 weapons), a San Diego, Calif. gun buyback in its fifth year received 360 rifles, shotguns and even “two Uzi-style handguns and TEC-9″ turned in — before 10 am, according to Atlantic Cities.
Gun buybacks could even gain federal support. Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly and Florida’s Ted Deutsch are attempting to add a $200 million buyback program to the final ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations.
For Ithaca residents, the buybacks will be held at the Ithaca Fire Department on Green Street and the Tompkins County Airport Fire and Rescue Building on Brown Road.