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A number of gun buyers flocked to Saturday's gun buyback in downtown Seattle, turning it into a scene reminiscent of a Turkish bazaar. (Brandi Kruse/KIRO Radio photo)

Don: Seattle's gun buyback a "circus" that did more harm than good

Seattle Police and Mayor Mike McGinn are calling the city's Saturday gun buyback an "overwhelming success." But KIRO Radio's Don O'Neill calls it something else. And suffice it to say it's not favorable.

Officials say they took in over 700 guns, including a missile launcher and three "Street Sweeper" shotguns, high capacity rifles that include a magazine capable of holding twelve 12-gauge shotgun shells in just a few hours Saturday. The event was so popular, they ran out of Amazon gift cards to exchange in less than four hours.

"I think just looking at the name Street Sweeper says it all that's not used for hunting deer so the fact that these are off the street makes a difference," said McGinn.

Don would disagree. He stumbled upon the buyback and open air gun market that sprung up along the street under I-5 as he drove to and from Capitol Hill Saturday morning.

"This is a way for police departments and politicians to make you feel like they're doing something. But if you saw what I saw, I saw a three-ring circus that the mayor created, I saw a traffic jam that went on for miles." And perhaps worst of all, Don says he didn't see the one thing that would have actually made a difference: the kinds of guns actually used in most crimes.

"The gang bang guns that you want or the AR-15 platform that you want from the crazy kid who's mentally unstable between the ages of 15-25, those guns were not being collected. And the guns that had any value at all those were just getting moved around," Don argues.

Instead, he says he saw lots of "middle aged white guys" turning in old guns that were likely gathering dust in the garage. And he's particularly critical of the mayor and police for the widespread gun sales that went on all around the buy back as private buyers flocked to the area with cash in hand, creating what resembled a Turkish bazaar.

It was all perfectly legal. State law permits private gun sales between Washington State residents without a background check. Background checks are only required for retail sales. But Don says officials should have known what was going to happen.

"How did you not see this circus coming?" Don says. "I mean, all you did was move around a bunch of guns. You created an opportunity where I would imagine a lot more guns were sold and changed hands Saturday morning than were turned in."

The mayor said at a press conference Monday it just proves the laws need to be changed and we need a "comprehensive set of background checks on guns" as President Obama has proposed. In the meantime, he says city officials still plan another buyback in the next few weeks and will look at ways to make the next one run smoother.

Officials have argued repeatedly the gun buyback was worth it if even one gun that potentially could be used in a crime or accidental shooting was taken off the streets.

"If I was the mayor I wouldn't do this again. And I was there. And as a citizen I would beg the mayor not to do this again. All you did was you bought a bunch of broken guns."

Officials disagree. In a statement, the city says "despite the presence of private buyers near the event site, very few members of the public chose to sell their weapons, preferring to participate in the gun buyback event."

Josh Kerns, MyNorthwest.com
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.
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