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Police chief says ‘no’ to no-questions-asked gun buybacks

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The police chief of Tacoma, Wash., turned thumbs down to the idea of holding a “no-questions-asked” gun buyback program, and the argument he used was virtually identical to the one offered by a leading gun rights advocate during a Thursday editorial board meeting with the Seattle Times regarding Initiatives 591 and 594.

There were two Times editorial board sessions, both videotaped by TVW. The I-591 session may be viewed here and the I-594 segment here. Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms was joined by well-known Spokane gun dealer and range operator Robin Ball for the first hour-long interview, and then by Brian Judy, state liaison for the National Rifle Association.

But Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell is “not a fan of gun buybacks,” according to My Northwest.com and KIRO radio. The story said Ramsdell believes “no-questions-asked” buybacks “could give criminals a free pass.”

Tacoma Police spokeswoman Loretta Cool explained it this way to KIRO: “Just because someone wants to turn in a gun doesn't mean that they're not going to be held accountable for the crime that was committed with the gun.”

It’s a gutsy position for a metropolitan police chief to take, considering that there is support for no-name gun buybacks on the city council. Early last year, when former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn pushed a buyback as a publicity stunt in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy. It turned into a circus when gun rights activists arrived and began paying cash for guns that would have been otherwise turned in for gift certificates.

McGinn had even been counseled against the buyback by Ralph Fascitelli, president of Washington CeaseFire. Fascitelli, in an e-mail, advised the city that such buybacks may be counter-productive.

Meanwhile, the Seattle Times editorial board sessions were probing for both sides. There was expected disagreement between the pro- and anti-gun sides in both discussions, especially about what I-594 actually does.

Gottlieb reminded the board that he had worked on improving the current background check system at both the state and federal levels last year. However, like NRA’s Judy, he said the kind of checks, with expansion of the state gun registry and records keeping included in I-594, simply will not fly with gun owners or the majority of police officers and sheriff’s deputies.

One thing Gottlieb noted in each session was that even with last year’s amendments, the proposed background check legislation only spanned two and one half pages. However, I-594 stretches 18 pages, he said, and it literally takes an attorney to explain it.

Ball told the board about the legal conflicts between federal firearms law and the proposed initiative regarding how licensed firearms dealers would have to handle those transactions. The Times group seemed genuinely interested in her explanations.

The “final analysis” will not be known until the Times makes an editorial recommendation. In the meantime, the two TVW sessions make interesting viewing, and they may just clarify for people why Tacoma Chief Ramsdell does not have such a high opinion of “no-questions-asked” gun buybacks.

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