AURORA | Following a pair of shootings outside two different Aurora high schools last week, local politicos have unveiled a plan to reduce the number of guns circulating through the metroplex.
Aurora City Councilperson Curtis Gardner and Denver City Councilperson Amanda Sawyer on Monday announced a new gun buyback program slated to be held at various religious institutions across the region early next year.
Beginning in March, the new effort will work with a Colorado Springs nonprofit group that specializes in hosting gun buyback events and the destruction of weapons. Volunteers with the group will set up at local churches, synagogues and community centers — likely four in Aurora and four in Denver — where residents can anonymously surrender their guns.
The weapons will be then destroyed and morphed into garden tools and jewelry, according to a statement issued by the two local lawmakers.
“The goal of our gun buyback program is to reduce the availability of firearms through a voluntary buyback effort, so these weapons are not available to be stolen for use in future violent crimes,” the statement reads. “While we know those participating in criminal activity will not typically turn in their firearms at a buyback event, reducing the number of available guns in our communities works as part of an overall strategy to address gun violence.”
Gardner said residents who relinquish their weapons will be compensated using a sliding scale: $100 for single shot handguns, rifles and long guns; $200 for semi automatic handguns and rifles; $300 for assault weapons.
Policy wonks have vacillated on the efficacy of buyback programs over the decades, though experts have again warmed to the idea given that the efforts are coordinated in tandem with additional community safety measures.
The programs have often jumped back into the zeitgeist following mass shootings, including the Port Arthur attack in Australia in the 1996 and the Sandy Hook School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.
In Aurora, aggravated assaults — which is how non-fatal shootings are often defined in statistics — were up about 20% in the first 10 months of the year when compared to the same time in 2020, police data show. There were 2,243 aggravated assault victims reported in the city through Oct. 24, the most recent complete data available.
Across the city, major crimes — defined as murder, rape, assault and various forms of theft — are up about 19% in 2021.
The buyback program was announced a week after a drive-by shooting at a park beside Aurora Central High School left six teens wounded, and another, similar attack in the parking lot of Hinkley High School left three more young people injured Friday afternoon.
Aurora police have arrested three 16-year-old boys in connection with the Hinkley shooting, though no suspects have been publicly identified in the Central shootout.
The nearly back-to-back incidents in Aurora last week elicited outcry from across the region, and Police Chief Vanessa Wilson begged parents to monitor the whereabouts and activities of their children in an effort to prevent them from obtaining firearms.
A town hall on gun violence in response to the shootings is slated to take place at the Dayton Street Opportunity Center Monday evening.
Times, dates and locations of the various buyback events are set to be unveiled in January.
“With the combined resources of our cities, my hope is we can ensure our residents feel safe calling Aurora and Denver home,” Gardner said in a statement of the new program.