WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Winston-Salem officials say the city’s first gun buyback program since the 1990s collected 364 weapons on March 15 – so many guns that the city ran out of money and had to issue vouchers.
As a result, the city will be amending its budget on Monday to add another $12,800 to the program so that the all vouchers can be redeemed. The city started redeeming vouchers on Wednesday.
Another $10,000 will be allocated for the second gun buyback on April 12.
“I think it really exceeded our expectations because we had to issue vouchers at the event,” said Ben Rowe, assistant city manager. “We will see what happens with the next one.”
The second gun buyback will be April 12 at Waughtown Baptist Church, but this time no vouchers will be issued, city officials said. When the money runs out, the event will be over.
In January, the city had earmarked $20,000 for both gun buybacks. Of the money, $10,000 was to come from the city’s funds and another $10,000 from contributions.
The first of the two gun buybacks took place at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Folks began arriving for the event about 90 minutes in advance, and a long double line of vehicles wound through the fairgrounds as people waited their turn to sell guns.
It wasn’t long before the money ran out, and officials had to decide what to do. A decision was made to continue buying guns and issue the vouchers.
When the event was over, the city had collected 220 handguns and 144 rifles. The city also collected smoke grenades, tear gas, ammunition and BB pellets and guns. No money was given for those.
The city ended up paying out $14,975 from the original $20,000. The city issued vouchers totaling $17,825, for a total buyback expense of $32,800. Monday’s appropriation of $12,800 covers the gap left between the original $20,000 and the total payout for the first event.
When the second event is finished the city will have paid out $42,800, assuming the city sticks to its plan to issue no new vouchers.
“We are pleased with the response from the community on the gun buyback event,” Police Chief Barry Rountree said. He said he was grateful to police officers and other city employees who took part in the event, as well as people in the community.