Evanston’s mayor and the Evanston Community Foundation announced plans this week to launch a fundraising drive to buy back guns from Evanston residents in hopes of reducing gun violence in the community.

The program has a goal of raising $10,000 and the purchase of guns would be handled by the city under procedures that have yet to be developed.

It’s part of a broader response to the issue of gun violence brought dramatically to the community’s attention by last month’s fatal shooting of 14-year-old Dajae Coleman.

Gun buyback programs have been considered in Evanston at least since 1999, but haven’t previously been put into effect, for reasons including suggestions that people who planned to use weapons to commit crimes would be unlikely to turn them in.

A Gallup poll last year reported that 47 percent of Americans say they have a gun in their home. Republicans were 7 percentage points more likely than average to report having a gun, and Democrats were 7 points less likely.

Midwestern residents were slightly more likely than the national average to have guns.

But If one were to assume that in heavily-Democratic Evanston just 40 percent of households had a gun, and each gun-owning household had only one gun, with more than 29,000 households, Evanstonians could be projected to own 11,600 guns.

Chicago Magazine recently reported that there are 441 federally licensed gun dealers in suburban Cook county and the five collar counties.

A gun buyback program in Chicago this summer, which offered a $100 gift card for working guns, took 5,500 working and replica guns off the street, although one downstate gun rights group used it to raise $6,200 for a youth gun safety program, and critics said most of the weapons turned in were junk.

What do you think? Is a gun buyback program a good idea for Evanston?

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Gun buyback: Fail

    "For reasons including suggestions that people who planned to use weapons to commit crimes would be unlikely to turn them in." 

    Does the Mayor think that a drug dealer or gang member is going to turn in his handgun – something apparently so essential to his sense of power and identity in a violent gang organization – for a Best Buy gift card?

    She needs to address the gangs in the city.  Why do children join them?  Why do our young men turn to this violent, senseless lifestyle? 

    While illegally-owned guns should be confiscated, just addressing the gun itself isn't the issue.  I grew up in the rural Midwest; the ratio of guns owned per person in my town of 30,000 was probably tenfold what it is in Evanston and we never had our kids getting shot and killed in the middle of the night walking home from a party.  

    Use that $10,000 to fund more anti-gang police units, or social workers, or the Boys/Girls Club, or youth pastors.  Give it to someone or something who can fix the broken lives of the Evanston children who turn to gangs for the emotional support they apparently don't receive at home.

    1. Absolutely

      Absolutely. It seems as if this mayor, city manager and a few of the councilmembers dont want to address root causes behind symptoms we experience as a community.  This is just another half-cooked idea in a long line, most recently the contemplation of the sale of the mansion and property near the lighthouse and the insistence on developing a green space killing, unwanted office building at main and chicago, not to mention a seemingly never ending battle between neighborhood associations and the city regarding zoning and resident wishes and concerns.

  2. where do the guns go?

    Are they destroyed or resold?  I remember some 60 minutes or Nightline episode (or 20/20 or soemthing) saying lots of time, they would be resold at gunshows eslewhere.  Will these guns be destroyed or just shipped off to kill people elewhere?

    1. Destroyed

      In the Chicago program the guns turned in are destroyed. Fair to assume it would be handled the same way in Evanston.

      — Bill

  3. Proposed gun buyback program

    "…people who planned to use weapons to commit crimes would be unlikely to turn them in."

    Just saying….why would anyone who intended to commit crime turn in a weapon? 

    Are criminals getting their guns from gun stores? 

    Would the program pay someone enough money for the gun they own (if this was a potential criminial who potentially planned to use this gun to commit a crime) so that they could then go to a gun store and buy another gun?

  4. Nope

    Gun buy back programs don’t work. Criminals giving up their guns!  You’ve got to be kidding. Criminals need to have their guns taken away.

    Reference the study published in 2004 on firearms and violence by the National Research Council.

    This study concludes that there is no evidence the buybacks reduce gun violence and guns usually surrendered in such buybacks "are those that are least likely to be used in criminal activities."

    Case in point. After a recent Chicago gun buy back it was reported that the downstate gun dealers turned in broken guns that could not be repaired and turned a profit. The downstate gun dealers took in over $6500.00 and used it to fund gun safety programs and buy ammunition and new rifles for the courses.

    If Evanston really wants to reduce crime, they need to put more law enforcement officers on the streets.

    Bottom line, this is just another old idea that other communities have tried unsuccessfully but will act as just another photo opportunity for the grand standing mayor of Evanston. I would assume Jan would also be in attendance for the event.

  5. Gun buyback

    I would rather see a gun safety program.  Bad guys will turn in non-working guns for the money.  Good guys may have guns but no clue as to their operation, maintenance and safe storage.  Help prevent accidental shootings by teaching safe handling – it is money better spent.

  6. Gun buyback… How ’bout house buyback?

    While I understand our elected officials frustration with controlling (gang) violence, a gun buy-back program is a waste of money. First of all, the city cannot compete with manufaturers and retailers of hand guns. The gun pictured in this article can be bought for less than $300, used. (often this brand/style is a former police service weapon…go figure!)… Here's my "outside the box" suggestion: Take a clue from the "old west." If some undesirable was sturring up trouble, we was run out of town… literally!

    The Evanston cops know who many of the ne'er-do-wells are. If Evanstonians are uncomfortable with possibly violating these guy's civil rights maybe they would be willing to pony up enough funds to buy a gangbanger's parent's house at a premium price and "show them all the door." (After you stop laughing, I bet you'll be thinking, it…just…might…work). There is a reason why so many commnities balk at the idea of providing "affordable housing.

  7. Get tough on gangs and drug possession not gun control

    A gun buyback program is a Band-aid approach. It isn't going to solve the gang problem in Evanston. That is the root cause of Coleman's murder.

    What is interesting is apparently Evanston police this year ticketed Wesley Woodson for marijuana possession rather than arrest him. Woodson was a known gang member with a weapons charge against him when he was allegedly ticketed.

    If you recall, the Evanston City Council decriminalized marijuana, allowing police to ticket someone with 10 grams or less of marijuana rather than making an arrest. I always contended that decriminalizing marijuana was a ploy to raise revenue for the city.

    I am not saying that if Woodson were arrested rather than ticketed for possession of marijuana he would not have shot and killed Coleman. My point is a gang member known to possess and shoot guns was let off with a ticket rather than being arrested.

    What are gangs primary focus? It is to profit in drug sales. So why did the Evanston City Council lighten the penalty of marijuana possession? How does that help combat gangs in Evanston?

    If it is true Woodson was arrested for pot possession, why didn't the officer arrest a known gang member with a penchant for shooting guns when he had cause? 

    As a parent of two children, I disapprove of decriminalizing marijuana for many reasons. This adds more ammunition to my argument.

    Lessening the penatly of marijuana possession does not fight the war on gangs. The Council should revisit the marijuana possession ordinance at the very least. People need to speak out against it. Otherwise, it will be business as usual.

  8. Folks in affordable housing do not equal “gangbangers”

    For someone to post that "There is a reason why so many communities balk at the idea of providing "affordable housing" shows that sadly prejudice is alive and well in Evanston.  The concept that having housing for working families in Evanston is the reason for violence or gangs is really classist.  Evanston is the community it is because of our socioeconomically diverse community — and we need a diverse range of housing for that community. 


  9. Research on gun buyback programs


    There is research about this:

    "Despite the popularity of these (gun buy back) programs, research has consistently failed to show a link between these programs and a reduction in gun violence." 

       from The Center for Program Evaluation and Performance at the Justice Research and Statistics Association

    Additional articles/publications are listed on this web site. 

    As has rightly been noted, reducing the number of guns in our homes may help reduce suicides or those awful accidents that happen when children play with them, but let's not undertake a fairly expensive program that won't effect safety in our streets because of our need to just do something….anything because we are so incredibly sad.

    Come on, neighbors, let's spend our treasure and energies on things that are effective….block associations, neighborhood watch, and, most basic of all, supporting and strengthening the families of Evanston.It takes an engaged village…not a gun buy back program… to end the deaths of young men in our streets.

    Yours for a peaceable city…..

  10. Gun training

    Why not use the $10'000 to train the law-abiding citizen to use the guns they already legally own?
    Advise them on legality of defending them self with firearms and hire gun instructors to train willing residents at no charge.
    Why not rent the available gun range at discounted rate and or organize monthly training for residents with valid FOID.
    Why not spread the word all over the Evanston and let the criminal element know about it as well?

  11. Gun back program and the Mayor

    On the city site it announced this program as if the Mayor had thought of it, later we found out it was really someone else. The PR machine here tries as it can to make it look like public officials and the city are doing something.

    Here again the cost of this buy back program will NOT be $10,000., How much city resources will be used?  One could estimate the cost will actually be double, with police and city staff operating the event, disposing of the weapons, etc.  So we might spend $10,000 of money beyond the $10,000 funded.

    Is this as good use of city resources, ofcourse in the Mayor mind. 

    But the reality it will collect 100 guns, out of 11,000, and there are most likely more guns in town. Someone might say, we may have prevented one death , so the cost was justified, maybe or maybe not.

    What does $20,000 buy, about the 1/3 of time of social worker for a year, or the street outreach worker.  We are not talking here about even using police resources, to fight crime.  Is it better to have someone work with the youths or better to take  a few guns away?   In the Mayor world of misamanaged politics, it better to create PR.

    I forgot the city is so flush with Cash, it all right to keep on wasting it.

  12. $100 gift card to where?

    Where are the $100 gift cards for?  Do working toy gun replicas count? 

  13. Gun buybacks are one more way

    Gun buybacks are one more way to spent taxpayer money.  Many places across the country have tried this method, so there must be plenty of statistics out there about the effect of the spending.  Look at results elsewhere first.  Surely we don't have to fly blind into another spending program.

  14. Smoke and mirrors

    Gun buybacks are worthless schemes that benefit on one, yet give politicians the veneer of crime-fighting activism and the appearance of public concern… while using the taxpayers' money to do it.

    A better use of $10,000 would be to fund professionally instructed, free classes for any and all residents on gun safety, safe handling, and safe storage. Or give every Evanston resident who can display an Illinois FOID card a $100 coupon, good toward the purchase of an approved gun safe, or $10 toward the purchase of a gun lock.

    Criminals and gangsters will always have guns, no matter what Evanston or Illinois or the U.S.A. does.

    Stop attacking the legally owned firearms of responsible citizens and severely punish the criminal wrongdoers with illegally owned weapons. The weak-kneed liberalism of minimum sentences and early paroles cannot be construed as "punishment", because the cycle of violent crime just repeats itself on a fresh group of victims.

    1. Well said

      I could not have said it any better…and I like your ideas re: safe storage. These are much better ideas than a gun buy-back program. Gun buy-back programs are more of what I like to call "Security Theater".

  15. Camden gun buyback – you be the judge

    Here is information from Dave Lindorff about a gun buyback by Camden NJ. Does this sound like a sensible program?


    "On a recent Saturday morning people streamed into a church building in south Camden, NJ carrying similar items, some items bundled in blankets, some wrapped in rugs, some in cases and plastic bags.

    Those items were not toys for tots or assistance for the destitute.

    Those items were guns – handguns, rifles and shotguns – many inoperable, most old – all brought to that church center for cash ranging from $50-to-$250 during a vaulted gun ‘Buy-Back’ program.

    This government sponsored/funded Buy-Back program did net a record number of firearms: 1,137.

    That record setting figure easily exceeded the previous New Jersey high mark of 700 guns set in 2009 during a similar buy-back program in the Newark area.

    That Camden buy-back did net five fully automatic weapons which is a plus.

    But judging from photographs of that record return of guns featured in media coverage those five full auto weapons were not the dreaded AK/AR-style assault rifles rightfully feared by police for the ability to rapidly fire bullets that shred bullet-proof vests unlike pistols.

    Irrespective of that record return of guns, this buy-back program – like so many similar initiatives other around the nation – missed its real target.

    It missed the mark because those availing themselves of the no-questions-asked-cash-4-guns were not young hoodlums – the group mostly responsible for the gun related mayhem and murder wrecking city’s like Camden where the murder rate runs ten times the national average.

    Most of those bringing their old and otherwise unwanted weapons were middle-aged to elderly.

    And, many were not residents of Camden, some living twenty or more miles outside that crumbling city located directly across the Delaware River from downtown Philadelphia.

    One man at that buy-back, who lives in a comfortable community far from Camden, used his smart phone to look at a new semi-automatic pistol he planned to buy as he waited for authorities to process the guns he brought in.

    That man came to the buy-back to make a few bucks while making “room in my gun safe” – motivations divergent from media claims that buy-back participants were primarily “touched” by the Connecticut school shooting tragedy triggering their turning in guns."

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