The firearms turned in at a gun buyback in Seattle earlier this year have been destroyed and cannot be used to make so-called "Peace Bricks," KIRO Radio has learned.
On Tuesday, Mayor Mike McGinn announced a program called "Weapons to Words." He said guns from the buyback would be melted into plaques and inscribed with quotes about gun violence written by area school children.
"We were inspired by the idea that we could take these weapons that were recovered, 750 at the first gun buy back, and do something meaningful with them," McGinn said at the press conference. "Something of symbolic importance to our city, particularly after all the incidents of gun violence we have seen in this city over the years."
But a source told KIRO Radio that there was a miscommunication between the mayor's office and the police department, and that almost all of the 716 guns collected at the Jan. 26 event were melted into rebar.
Aaron Pickus, a spokesperson for the mayor, acknowledged the mistake Thursday and told KIRO Radio that the mayor was told the guns had been destroyed sometime between when he announced the "Peace Bricks" press conference and when he held the press conference.
"At the end of the day, the program isn't affected," Pickus told KIRO Radio. "When we learned what happened, we closely looked over our press release to determine if it was accurate and we decided that is was."
Pickus said the mayor's office did not intend to hide the fact that the guns were destroyed, and said he told a reporter for a local blog Tuesday about what had happened. That conversation was not published and has not been verified.
Mayor McGinn released the following statement Thursday afternoon:
I apologize for not being more forthcoming at our press conference. We will be using metal from guns acquired at our next gun buy back for our Weapons to Words youth outreach effort. I was informed that morning that the guns from the first buy back were melted down for rebar used in community buildings.
The fact was I didn't want this piece of information to distract from the program or the incredible support from Schnitzer Steel and the Chihuly family. We shared the information when directly asked, but we should have been more proactive in sharing the source of the metal for Weapons to Words. That was my mistake.
Pickus said weapons collected at future buyback events, including one planned for this summer, will be used for the bricks instead.
"We're already in discussions to have a future buyback," said Sgt. Sean Whitcomb with the Seattle Police Department. "This time we'll be sure to reserve some guns."
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