On Saturday, people can take the opportunity to get guns off the street.
The Santa Fe Police Department and the nonprofit New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence are teaming Saturday to collect unwanted guns from anyone who wants to turn one in — no questions asked. From 9 a.m. to noon at the Santa Fe Municipal Court, 2511 Camino Entrada, individuals can drop off unloaded but working guns — and in return, be given gift cards ranging from $100 to $250 depending on the weapon.
Free gun locks also will be available.
Once collected, the guns will be turned into garden tools. To date, the nonprofit has repurposed nearly 1,000 guns at 13 buybacks.
Buybacks, of course, are just one strategy.
As The New Mexican reported Sunday, the gun problem is bigger than a series of buybacks can handle. In a recent, extensive story on the issue, reporter Victoria Traxler focused on how teenagers can buy guns easily (“ ‘You wanna protect yourself,’ ” Nov. 7). That’s despite state law making it illegal for anyone under 19 to possess or purchase a handgun (although there is no minimum age to possess rifles and shotguns).
Using technology or the occasional obliging older friend, teens who see guns as symbols of power, or who believe they “need” weapons for self-defense, are buying them. As a result, Santa Fe has seen a rash of gun crimes involving young people.
Many of those guns, bought illegally, are available on the street because they were stolen. The guns often are stored by individuals too ignorant or too sloppy to do the job properly. Guns in the home should be locked securely and ammunition stored separately. That makes it difficult for burglars to steal weapons, as well as reducing the opportunity for accidental or impulse shootings.
It’s another example of how some gun owners can be irresponsible — with few repercussions. For all the shouting about the right to own guns as guaranteed by the Second Amendment, we have seen little discussion about responsibilities that accompany such rights. A gun owner must be responsible for learning to fire and store weapons safely. Those who fail in such basic tasks need to be held to account.
Beyond punishing the irresponsible and the criminal, more thought must be directed to preventing gun violence. That’s why many gun safety advocates are asking the governor to establish an Office of Gun Violence Prevention. It’s a strategy to treat gun violence as what it is — a public health crisis as well as criminal matter.
Legislation to establish the office is among several crime bills Democrats have said they will introduce in January. Endorsed this week by the Legislature’s Courts, Corrections, and Justice Committee, it would begin as a place to gather information about current gun violence before making policy suggestions.
As discussed in a recent opinion piece (“Gun violence is a public health crisis,” My View, Oct. 24), Miranda Viscoli and the Rev. Harry Eberts, co-presidents of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, noted 472 people in the state died from gun violence in 2020, compared to 149 who perished in DWI-related crashes. “Our state works together and spends over $20 million yearly to reduce harm from DWIs,” they wrote. “Yet, we continue to spend little to eradicate gun violence.”
Targeting the issue with sensible legislation — including increased punishment for gun crimes and penalties for failing to store weapons properly — is important in New Mexico, which has the fourth-highest rate of gun violence in the country. Until those big solutions are implemented, there’s this: Every gun off the street is one less gun that can cause harm. That makes Saturday’s buyback an important date to keep on the calendar.