City officials to possibly restructure guidelines of gun buyback program after money collected from ‘ghost guns’ draws scrutiny

Biden aims at 'ghost gun' violence with new federal rule

HOUSTON – Social media users are sounding off after a person allegedly received more than $3,000 for turning in “ghost guns” at the gun buyback program hosted by Houston and Harris County officials over the weekend.

The “no questions asked” One Safe Houston program provided gift cards valued between $50 and $200, depending on the condition and type of firearm, to those who turned in the weapons. All guns were to be unloaded prior to arriving on site, officials said.

According to the Houston Chronicle, authorities collected a box of ghost guns during the buyback event held Saturday at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church.

A social media user, @ModeratorGage, posted the amount received was more than $3,000.

The post read, “Hey so we talked with the gentleman who sold these back they bought them back as non-functional for 50$ each [SIC] with 63 sold back. So 3150$ [SIC] for an investment of 6-12$ [SIC] per Harlot and Cabfare.”

Some commenters began to make jokes, saying the city was seemingly outsmarted by accepting the homemade firearms, which were made for less than what they were returned for, but city officials said getting all unwanted weapons off the streets was the goal.

EXPLAINER: What are ghost guns? Why is Biden taking action?

So what are ghost guns?

  • They are privately-made firearms without serial numbers. - Generally, firearms manufactured by licensed companies are required to have serial numbers – usually displayed on the frame of the gun – that allow officials to trace the gun back to the manufacturer, the firearms dealer and original purchaser.
  • Purchases of kits or individual parts do not require a background check, meaning they can essentially be bought by anyone, including children
  • Some ghost guns can be fabricated in as little as 30 minutes using kits and parts purchased online

Simply put, the homemade guns are deadly.

The dollar amount received for the ghost guns at the weekend event has not been verified by either KPRC 2 or city officials. The mayor did, however, acknowledge receipt of the weapons, noting that, in the future, more guidelines may be put in place.

The mayor’s office sent KPRC 2 the following statement on his behalf:

“One of our primary goals in this gun buyback program and any future event is to establish a safe and secure environment for citizens to turn in unwanted guns. As a part of my One Safe Houston initiative, this is a major component which allows the community to proactively assist us in getting unwanted guns off the street that could find their way into the hands of those committing violent crime.

“The community response was robust and we also learned that in future gun buybacks, we will need to establish some guidelines regarding Privately Manufactured Firearms (more commonly referred to as Ghost Guns or PMFs). These firearms can come in many styles and configurations and thus, in the future, we will communicate well in advance if PMFs will be accepted during the buyback program. This program was not designed to establish a place for PMFs to be profitable but rather to get unwanted firearms off the streets of Houston that could become crime guns.”

Turner proudly announced after the event that the One Safe Houston Gun Buyback collected 845 firearms and distributed nearly $100,000 in gift cards. As a result of the unprecedented response, the event, which began at 8 a.m. and was scheduled to end at noon, did not conclude until almost 7 p.m., when the last person collected a handful of gift cards. Earlier in the day, dozens of vehicles were turned away due to demand and long lines. However, more than 150 people were given priority vouchers for a place in line at the next gun buyback. Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Houston Police Department will announce a date soon for a second event.

About the Author:

Mother of two. Award-winning lover of digital storytelling, sparked by my fascination of being a fashionable gossip like my favorite "Willona Woods" character from "Good Times." On the serious side, president of the Houston Association of Black Journalists and dedicated community servant. Happy to share the news with you each and every day!