Palo Alto Patch

Santa Clara County Officials Stand By Decision to Fund Gun Buyback

Despite drawing criticism for using taxpayer dollars, Santa Clara County officials are convinced that gun buybacks are worth the cost.

by Dominic Fracassa

March 5, 2013


Santa Clara County officials are standing by their decision to use $160,000 in county funds to finance a gun buyback that took place Saturday, March 2nd.

Like many of the gun buybacks springing up across the Bay Area, the event was publicized as a way for anyone, not just county residents, to get of unwanted firearms in exchange for cash, no questions asked.

Several community groups, including the Golden State 2nd Amendment Council and the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association, picketed the event to protest the county’s sponsorship of it. Santa Clara County supervisors allocated $150,000 to buy back the roughly 1100 weapons collected; the District Attorney’s office contributed $10,000.

Gwendolyn Mitchell, the Director of the county’s Office of Public Affairs, issued a prepared statement Monday, saying that, above all, “the County’s investment in the Gun Buy-Back program is to prevent violence and keep the community safe.” She also said that the buyback is one of a number of initiatives set up by the county aimed at enhancing public safety, including the creation of a suicide prevention task force.

Mitchell also indicated that from the county’s perspective, sponsoring the buyback served a practical purpose by helping to bring down the financial costs associated with gun violence. “The average cost of treating a gunshot wound at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center is upwards of $50,000.  Some, or all, of that amount could be incurred by the County, depending on the person’s insurance status. Taxpayers could save thousands of dollars in medical costs for uninsured victims of gun violence.”

But Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association President Mark Hinkle and other protestors Saturday saw the buyback as little more than a waste of taxpayer dollars. The Association generally organizes around a variety of causes broadly aimed at reducing the size and reach of government, especially through the reduction and elimination of taxes.

Moreover, Hinkle said he doesn’t share the county’s notion that gun buybacks help to bring down violent crime at all; in fact, just the opposite.

“By taking these guns out of the hands of responsible gun owners, we’re actually going to make our communities less safe,” Hinkle said. “We’re going to make them more susceptible to murders, burglaries, rapes, assaults, et cetera…Armed citizens are usually not victims.”

And while the inherent anonymity of gun buybacks does leave open the possibility that people living beyond Santa Clara County’s boundaries could have taken advantage of the county’s cash-for-firearms offer, Hinkle said that wasn’t what motivated his protest efforts Saturday.

“I don’t really care, and I don’t think the taxpayer group really cares where the guns come from, they care about where the money comes from. It comes from taxpayers who are forced to pay taxes for programs, such as this gun buyback program, that they might not necessarily approve of.”

This article is also available at the Web site of Palo Alto Patch, here.

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