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Falls Will Offer Gun Buy-Back Feb. 23

By Darryl McPherson

I get it. Nobody is going to turn in a $1,000 assault rifle for $100 bucks, but you may get Johnny to turn in his brother’s gun for $50. There is really no way to gauge how successful it is. We are going to get guns. I have no way to tell whether they would have been used in a crime or not. Maybe we save a life. If so, it is worth it.
- Bryan Dal Porto
City will pay $75 for a hand gun, $100 for an assault rifle. No questions asked.

Like many municipalities across the United States, the scourge of gun violence walks the streets of Niagara Falls. The Cataract City, recognizing that taking it on is a large, but not insurmountable task, has some plans to do something to meet the challenge.

As a part of its overall crime reduction strategy called HEAT (Help Eliminate Armed Thugs), the city is conducting its first gun buy-back program on Saturday, February 23 from noon to 5 p.m. at the Ontario Avenue Fire Hall.
Mayor Paul Dyster announced the plan at his State of the City address.

Niagara Falls Police Supt. Bryan DalPorto continues to tout the program, stating: “It was brought to our attention by community groups, the Block Club Council, and the group MAD DADS. We partnered with them and we think we’ve incorporated best practices as far as gun buy-backs are concerned, and think this can be a successful program.”

On the 23rd, police officers will be on hand to receive weapons from anyone wishing to turn them in. The city will pay $10 for non-working guns, $50 for working shotguns and rifles, $75 for handguns, and $100 for assault rifles.

DalPorto explains, “They will get cash. We’ll give them a receipt and there will be several layers of accountability to make sure everything is good. We found that cash is probably the best scenario and the most advantageous for people to turn in guns.” There will be plenty of officers on-hand to provide security for those entering and leaving the facility.

Ultimately the guns will be destroyed. “It’s a ‘no questions asked’ gun buy-back. Once the gun is turned in, we will run them to see if they were guns that were used in a crime,” DalPorto asserts. While guns used in crimes won’t be destroyed, those that can will be incinerated at Covanta Energy on 56th Street. DalPorto says an officer will be on site to personally observe them going into the incinerator.

HEAT includes an educational component as well. “It’s targeted to legal gun owners and it’ll focus mainly on gun safety and storage. It’s not a pistol permit class like a traditional required class by any means. It’s focusing on gun safety and the proper handling and storage of your firearm within the house,” DalPorto says. It will also include “some legal components on exactly what you can do and what you can’t do. And we’ll have a firearms training unit, our experts in firearms, conducting those classes.”

DalPorto stresses that, “The intent of the program is to give people an outlet to turn in guns if they don’t want them or they’re illegal or they’re no longer comfortable having them in the house. We’re not trying to infringe on anyone’s Second Amendment rights. Nor are we trying to take money out of people’s pockets if they have a valuable gun. Neither the NFPD nor its officers are profiting from this program.

“If someone comes in with an antique weapon that is legal, we’re not going to pay them fifty bucks for it. We’ll take the gun for safe-keeping, issue them a receipt and try to facilitate the sale to a gun dealer.”

Funding for the program is from a law enforcement grant provided by Niagara County 4th District Legislator Owen Steed. Exactly how much of the $50,000 grant will be used for the gun buy-back is unknown as it depends on the turnout.

Other gun buy-backs in cities like Buffalo and Rochester have been held in multiple sites. DalPorto feels that, given the size of Niagara Falls and the resources he has available, one location should be sufficient.

Niagara Falls City Councilmember Robert Anderson sees some value in the program. “It’s a start in the right direction. It’s not a total cure because the bad guys know we won’t be turning them in, but it’s a start. A better deterrent is 200 cops on the street, like I’ve tried to do for 10 years as a councilman, and security cameras on the street.”

Steed is optimistic about the buy-back. “I think it’s a great idea. What with two-year-old babies getting shot in the face; this is going to a good start to cleaning up the community. We have to start somewhere. The constituents have asked to get the guns off the street.”

Success is not necessarily measured in numbers. As Dyster cited in his speech, “what’s the life of a child worth?” DalPorto adds, “A legal gun taken in a burglary becomes an illegal gun and there’s no way to put a hard number on that. We think we’ve come up with a very good program; we’re really excited about it.”



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Feb 12 , 2013