South Seattle Cop on Gun Buy-Back: Great for Destroying Evidence


“Ask South Seattle Cop” is a new column written by an anonymous South Precinct police officer and longtime Rainier Valley Post contributor. Send your questions for South Seattle Cop to editor@rainiervalleypost.com.

RVP: What are your thoughts on the recent gun buy-back in Seattle? Don’t studies show they’re more feel good than effective?

SSC: Yes, that is correct. They are a good way to quickly drum up positive press if your voting base leans heavily to the anti-gun side, which is why I think this was done. But that’s about all it does.

RVP: Are we buying back the wrong guns?

SSC: Yes, that’s one of the main problems. It was reported that four stolen guns were turned-in, however, I seriously doubt that the person(s) who turned them in had any idea they were stolen.

The guns we collected were mostly old guns out of people’s closets, old trunks, and attics. Some were even rusted shut. These guns were in the hands of mostly responsible owners anyway, and these owners did not have any interest in owning them for recreation, hobby, or defense, so that is why they disposed of them.

RVP: Do gun buy-back events save lives?

SSC: I don’t think so, and I’ve seen no data indicating otherwise.

RVP: Do you think last month’s event will have any impact on gun violence in the Rainier Valley?

SSC: No, I do not believe the gun buy-back Seattle conducted will have any effect on crime/violence.

Although gun buy-backs are a quick feel-good project that politicians like because they are an easy 2-minutes of good publicity on the evening news, they essentially have no other effect.

Gun buy-backs do nothing to address the real problem of criminals and deranged people out in the streets bent on doing harm who are not being treated, subjected to meaningful consequences when they decide to commit crime, or supervised closely and strictly enough when released early from prison on parole/probation.

Another problem with this particular event is that the City opted not to IBIS test (Integrated Ballistics Identification System) the firearms purchased, but instead immediately destroy them. Thus, if we recovered a piece of evidence in a gun-crime that could lead us to a dangerous killer who is otherwise now roaming free (perhaps not the person who turned it in), we will never know it since a key piece of evidence will be melted down and gone forever.

If a city wants to do a gun buy-back, it doesn’t hurt anything I suppose, but it doesn’t help either. If you run a gun buy-back under the rules the City of Seattle mandated, you run the risk of providing the enterprising criminal with an easy way to permanently destroy otherwise traceable criminal evidence, and get some extra cash to boot (perhaps towards the illegal purchase of his/her next illegally possessed firearm).

RVP: What about the impromptu gun show that sprouted up around last week’s buy back?

SSC: If you mean the antique and collectible buyers who worked the line looking for valuable weapons about to be destroyed, I think they were doing nothing harmful, and probably saving antiques and artifacts of value from people who did not want them. The person turning the gun in got a better deal from the private buyer than they would have from the City. From what I could tell it looked like most of them were small gun-store owners and a bunch who were members of the WAC (Washington Arms Collectors).

RVP: Anything else you’d like to add?

SSC: I think State Senator Mike Carrell and Sate Representative Mike Hope are both proposing legislation that appears to actually try and address the roots of the problem, from what I have read. Their ideas will not result in overnight quick-fixes and quick results they can tout on the next evenings news. I do think however their proposed solutions will make more difference in the long run than anything else I have heard proposed so far. I think they are on the right track.

The dialogue that occurs here between friends, neighbors and engaged citizens is one of the features that makes your RVP such a valuable community resource. Your RVP does not necessarily endorse the opinions expressed.

35 comments on “South Seattle Cop on Gun Buy-Back: Great for Destroying Evidence

  1. Thank you for this… based on quotes in the media and the usual political talking points, I was worried the whole of the city gov’t was caught up in thinking the buyback was part of effective violence mitigation.

    I have a lot of respect for SSC and his/her candor, and RVP for making this a feature. Looking forward to more of this series.

  2. Incredibly poor reporting. The leading questions are so obvious, it’s embarassing. Seems like you are trying to push a opinion without actually writing an opinion piece.

  3. @Dave: Thanks for your feedback, but your RVP is proud to be asking (and answering!) the tough questions that traditional media and our elected officials tend to ignore. We understand that makes some folks feel threatened, but it’s how we roll, and I’m pretty sure it’s why we have such crazy traffic and widespread community support. ;-)

    PS. The post is clearly marked “opinion”.

  4. [i]your RVP is proud to be asking (and answering!) the tough questions that traditional media and our elected officials tend to ignore.[/i]

    Really? These are just a few of the many NRA talking points, and they’ve been all over the media lately. Of course, it’s your prerogative to print them, but I sure wouldn’t classify them as tough questions and answers!

  5. @Dave,
    How would you have phrased the questions? Perhaps you can put together a few you consider non leading for an upcoming response from SSC. I’m sure the RVP would appreciate the help.
    Tom T

  6. Normally with a post, follow up comments are answered. So will SSC answer any questions asked in our following forum here? It is the way of the RVP.

  7. @Kathy: You make a good point, and I would say, yes, asking these questions in an ultra-liberal region like Seattle absolutely qualifies as asking the tough questions. (Remember the Mars Hill Church advertising debate we had here last year?)

    I would also say that the polarization of the debate, and the way certain perspectives are discounted as being either “NRA” or “anti-gun” serve to shut down a very important discussion that we shouldn’t be so afraid to have.

    @Tom T: Excellent point that can’t be reiterated enough! Your RVP’s all-volunteer team certainly does appreciate any help its users are willing to offer. Not to mention, the column is called “Ask South Seattle Cop” for a reason and does indeed invite readers to submit their own questions. :-)

    @Chris: It certainly is the RVP way and we’re proud of that. :-) I would ask you to remember though that we’re all volunteers with day jobs and families, so we do what we can.

  8. Amber, My ? wasn’t meant to put any more work on you or the volunteers. When questions are put in response to an SSC piece, will this person (cop or SPD PR Rep?)answer? A column without being able to expect answers to ?’s asked is pretty non productive.

  9. Hey Chris – I know, thanks for pointing that out, I’m just feeling protective of our volunteers. :-) SSC has always been pretty good about responding to reader questions, which I think is one of the reasons previous pieces have been so popular and why we thought this Q&A format might be helpful, so please, ask away!

  10. Thank you, Amber. I agree that it’s an important dialogue to have, and that we should use logic and reason and not partisan politics while we discuss this complicated topic. I did look up the pieces of legislation proposed by Carrell and Hope, and feel that what these two (Republican) congressman are proposing would make good topics for further discussion.

    Yes, it’s definitely hard to keep partisan politics out of it. ;-)

  11. @Dave
    Did I miss something?
    It is a lot of the questions I asked the day I heard I about this (and I am a law abiding citizen)
    If you think they are leading questions, does it make them less relevant to others?

    And again let’s give it up for SSC.
    Is there another neighborhood blog /site with some actual insight from anyone close to his / her perspective?

  12. Examples of leading questions:

    I would not have asked:
    “Don’t studies show they’re more feel good than effective?”
    “Are we buying back the wrong guns?”

    Or if you want to reference studues, actually reference them.

    I would also point out the in addition to inquiring about gun violence, it would be worth while to inquiry about gun safety and gun accidents as it relates to gun buy backs. Especially since due to studies (such as a 2009 Univ of Penn study), we know that households with guns are more likely to be injured or killed by a gun that households without, and even more likely in households where children are present.

  13. You’re missing the point, Dave. It’s not meant to be an unbiased news piece. It’s a Q&A opinion column. By it’s very nature, the questions AND answers are going to be biased.

    The goal is to provide an informal and accessible way for Rainier Valley residents to get some of their public safety questions answered honestly by someone in the know.

  14. @ Dave,
    If you are going to cite a paper or study, as you said, it’s helpful to reference them. I could not find a free link to the paper. But here are some reference links to provide a glimpse of the paper’s content: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090930121512.htm

    What’s interesting about this paper is that the author appears to have failed to consider or control for gang membership or criminal records. Here’s an article on the same population – Philadelphia- 2003-2006 timeframe – that states that 85% of the shooters and their victims have criminal records. http://www.philly.com/philly/news/special_packages/inquirer/violence/20070410_Profiling_the_citys_gun_violence.html

    Seems like State Rep Mike Hope’s (who is also an SPD officer) gun offender registration act is our best bet to have to the biggest impact on gun violence.

  15. “Q&A” and “Opinion Piece” seem like 2 separate things, and attempting to give your opinion more credence under the guise of an Q&A with a “Anonymous Police Officer” is MISLEADING, whether labeled opinion or not.

    If you want to give you’re opinion, give it.
    If you want to get have a real Q&A, stop asking leading/biased questions.
    If you want to let the cop give his own opinion, let him write his own thoughts.

  16. Re: Tom T
    Thanks for your comment. I’ll read in to the proposed act, and am interested in reducing gun violence as well, and am hopeful the legislation could get something passed.

    I was simply taking issue with the fact that, besides the style of the Q&A, that the sole purpose of gun buy backs prevent gun crime. Gun accidents , injuries, & safety should be included in evaluation of the programs success.

  17. @Dave: Speaking of biased questions, just wait until you see what Greener Grad wants to know about pot shops in next week’s installment of “Ask SSC”. Can you imagine?! lol

  18. @Dave: Do you have any stats on how well gun buybacks affect non-crime-related gun safety? I agree that it’s something to consider when evaluating the program, but it was sold as a crime prevention tool—not a gun safety tool. I don’t believe it’s a good use of my tax dollar to pay people for guns that have no value to a criminal (talking about ancient, rusted guns; rarely/never-used hunting rifles, etc.).

    And SSC’s comment about the possibility of evidence being destroyed is valid. The “no questions asked” policy is very PC, but doubt it will prevent crime.

    And, finally, are you a writer? I conduct interviews for articles on a regular basis. It is common practice for the interviewer to guide the direction of the conversation. In this case, RVP asked the questions I would have asked SSC if given the chance. There’s nothing stopping you from submitting questions of your own. I believe that’s the purpose of this new column—the RVP Editor just got the ball rolling.

    SSC has often written editorials for RVP in the past. I believe this is an easier format for him/her. I’m grateful to the RVP for giving SSC a place to converse with us. So please, stop griping about it, and ask the questions you want answered.

  19. @Solvay Girl: Exactly. Couldn’t have said it better myself (obviously!). So thank you. :-)

    PS. Dave: There’s nothing misleading about referring to SSC as an “Anonymous Police Officer”. It’s a true statement. If you read previous SSC columns, that will be very clear. It will also be clear that SSC is NOT an official SPD spokesperson and would get fired in a heartbeat if his/her identity was revealed. So, you’re welcome for the unvarnished access. ;-)


  20. Good conversation folks.

    @Solvay girl. Where do find that it was soley billed as a crime prevention tool? The quotes I have found describe this as a broader tool for public safety. See the quote from Deputy Chief Nick Metz in the attached article: “What we’re talking today is the unwanted gun. The gun in your home, the gun in your business. Folks are scared of that gun. It’s a time bomb waiting to go off,”

    I agree that the threshhold of a value of a gun could be adjusted, but the idea of determining a proper value for various guns in th field during a buy back is unrealistic. for some guns the voucher would be worth more, for some less.

    But I do feel that even though you personally might not reap the benefits of every single gun that is turned in, the net gain to public health is a worthy investment.

  21. The posts by SSC have been and will be greatly appreciated by me. But , at this point I do have to wonder and (ask the unanswerable) is SSC the same SSC or the PR rep of the SE precinct. I do admit to being a bit on the cautious side. SSC has been great. Hope it is still the same person.

  22. @Dave: Perhaps it was billed as a gun safety tool, but with the tight city budget, I don’t think it’s the city’s job to pay cash to get “unused” guns out of people’s attics and closets. I am much more concerned about the guns that ARE being used. I doubt that many, if any, who bought a gun for protection and keep it loaded in their home turned one in. A gun is only “scary” if it’s loaded. I suspect most of the guns turned in hadn’t been loaded in years. I personally know someone who gave up after waiting forever in line to turn in a very old shotgun that had been collecting dust. The gun collectors told her it wasn’t worth much at all.

  23. Dave: as pointed out, Editor was asking my opinions for an opinion piece. It was not a news article or what most would commonly think of as “reporting”. And my positions on issues are by no means the RVP’s positions. They are just my opinions.

    And as Editor points out, my answers are heavily biased toward my opinions. :-)

    Kathy: my opinions hardly qualify as “NRA talking points”. If you notice, I expressed positive views of legislation being proposed in Washington State that the NRA is dead-set against. They would hardly point to me as their advocate.

    Also, I give Editor credit for asking and printing my views on such an emotional hot-button topic. While no spokesperson for the NRA, neither am I welcome in the opposition camp either. My comments/opinions on this topic are likely to draw the ire of a wide section of the community.

    Chris: I lol’d at your speculation that I am a PR flak for the department!

    I mean no insult to you. You may be a new (or relatively new) reader and not seen many of my past rants and tirades. SPD brass would string me up from the flag pole at the Justice Center if they could figure out who I am. The only thing I tend to do consistently here is offend someone or other. Hardly qualifications for a PR rep…for anyone!

    Tom T: I am glad you brought up the issue of mandatory sentences being proposed at a whopping 10-days. This reminds me of the 30-days home detention sentence handed down in the case of the assault that permanently brain damaged, disabled, and nearly killed Jason KcKissack. Also worth remembering are the sentences handed down to the murderers of the Tuba Man. Where are they now? Oh yes, continuing to commit violent crimes against the public. Hezekiah Greene just got arrested again in South Seattle after his latest armed robbery spree.


  24. SSC: Yes, I saw after I commented that the NRA gave Mike Hope a flunking grade. That is new. Personally, I think that it’s another sign of how truly irrational the NRA has become. While I do appreciate your thoughts about what’s going on in the Rainier Valley, and especially your perspective as a law enforcement officer, I am concerned that some readers will not necessarily make the distinction between your strong personal opinions and the reality of certain situations (the old “argument from authority” logical fallacy, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_authority). Of course, I do realize that it’s ALL perspective.

  25. Tom Ton… you have to understand that “law abiding citizens” are the target of these efforts — it is not criminals. The American middle class uses about 25 times more resources than someone in a 3rd world country. When central bankers own those resources, having purchased them through the endless creation of bonds that may sold and transferred into cash, the people who use the resources become their enemy.

  26. “Why is it that these guys don’t want to deal with crime issues but rather pursue law abiding citizens? ”

    Because law abiding citizens probably have more legitimate money to go after.

  27. Remember that these are folks that we elected and that social justice is a keystone of their platforms. Given what you said Mike, my impression is that they want to bring down those in the middle class to the lowest common denominator?

  28. Tom T —

    “…my impression is that they want to bring down those in the middle class to the lowest common denominator?”

    Research “Malthusian Fabian Socialism” and “Communitarianism” (aka, the “Third Way” political party), if so inclined.

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