'They just don't work': San Antonio police chief opposes city's proposed gun buyback program

Chief's comments come minutes after 2 council members presented idea at presser

It did not take long for a proposed gun buyback to be hit with criticism by Police Chief William McManus.

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Police Department Chief William McManus said Tuesday that he doesn't support the idea of a voluntary gun buyback program in the city.

His statements in opposition to the proposal came minutes after two San Antonio City Council members — District 2's Jada Andrews-Sullivan and District 9's John Courage — held a press conference to outline the buyback program.

"You know I think it's a noble idea but in reality they're ineffective. They just don't work," McManus said. "... I don't think that gun buybacks are effective and I think that spending any money on it on an ineffective program is not worthwhile."

The idea of buying back guns from residents isn't sitting well with San Antonio Police Chief William McManus.

MORE: Proposal would make San Antonio among first cities in Texas to have gun buyback program

The two council members filed a council consideration request last week that would need to be approved by the council's governance committee before it is considered by the full City Council.

The program would cost at least a quarter of a million dollars and would include firearms and ammunition, council members said on Tuesday. Firearms would be destroyed after they're purchased from willing gun owners. 

Andrews-Sullivan said a proposed sliding scale based on the caliber of the weapon would determine its value, and it's likely owners would be compensated with gift cards, not cash.

McManus said he's overseen buyback programs in past jobs in Washington, D.C. and Minneapolis and that they are costly and ineffective. 

"When you have a weapon that's turned over it's got to be documented. It's got to be cataloged. It's got to be tested to see if it was used in any other crimes," McManus said, adding that taking guns "no questions asked" could lead to issues. 

"If I'm turning over a gun and that gun's been used in a murder I'm going to want to talk to that person," he said, adding that the idea of offering amnesty to a person who turns over a gun is beyond his department and extends to the district attorney.

READ MORE: Texas Safety Commission discusses guns, terrorism and social media at post-El Paso roundtable

McManus said police will currently take guns off owners hands if they want to get rid of them, but that the individual wouldn't be paid.

McManus said he doesn't believe there is enough political support in Texas for such a program to exist.

Andrews-Sullivan, a military veteran and gun owner, tried to allay concerns on Monday about gun rights. "Your Second Amendment rights are constitutionally enforced, and we have no right to take those away from you."

She said on Tuesday that several other council members support the idea. If passed, San Antonio would be among the first cities in the state to enact such a program. The idea comes weeks after a gunman killed 22 people in an El Paso Walmart.

Andrews-Sullivan said she's confident there are many people in the community who have guns they no longer want, but they don't know how to get rid of them. She said there could be any number of scenarios in homes with aging parents, curious children, despondent individuals considering suicide, situations that lead to accidental shootings or domestic violence.

Both council members said many gun owners may realize if their weapons are stolen, they could wind up in the wrong hands, to threaten, kill or rob others. 

"I think it's worth having a follow-up conversation with the councilman or the council people who you know maybe we can come up with some other solution other than a gun buyback," McManus said.

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Kolten Parker is digital executive producer at KSAT. Previously, he worked at the San Antonio Express-News and the Texas Observer.