More than 900 weapons exchanged for gift cards at city’s first voluntary gun buyback event

Gun owners could trade in up to 20 guns for H-E-B gift cards.

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio’s first-ever gun buyback event ended hours before it was scheduled on Sunday afternoon because it ran out of gift cards.

Councilman John Courage said more than 900 weapons were traded in -- 300 more than his original goal.

As people lined up outside the Alamodome, they passed by shirts with the names of more than 2,700 victims of gun violence in Bexar County.

The colorful shirts represent homicide victims, while the white ones represent those who died by suicide, according to Texas Impact.

“I hope it reinforced their decision to be part of this,” Courage said of the people who traded in their weapons.

“There’s too much gun violence in our city,” he said. “And some of that gun violence takes place in people’s homes.”

Courage has pushed for a gun exchange program for years.

“We know that there, for example, are children who are finding weapons in their home and are discharging them, maybe injuring themselves or somebody else.”

Gun owners could trade in up to 20 guns for H-E-B gift cards.

Courage said there were $175,000 worth of cards, with $100,000 coming from his discretionary funds and the rest paid for by donors.

Gun owners received $50 for a non-functioning or home-manufactured weapon, $150 for a rifle or shotgun, $200 for a handgun, or $300 for a semiautomatic rifle.

“We had several people say ‘thank you, we’re going to feed our family Thanksgiving dinner or thank you, we’re going to go buy toys for our children or grandchildren,’” said Courage.

Some are critical about the effectiveness of these buyback programs.

In 2019, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said he didn’t support the idea of a voluntary gun buyback program in the city.

Courage said McManus was at Sunday’s event.

“[McManus] just shook my hand and said ‘congratulations,’” said Courage.

Courage believes this event could help save lives.

“None of those weapons are going to harm anybody or kill anybody or commit a crime because they’re going to be destroyed,” he said.

San Antonio police helped collect the weapons and checked the serial numbers.

McManus has said police officers at the event will check each firearm’s serial numbers on-site and will need to talk to anyone who brings in a stolen gun or one with a destroyed serial number. Otherwise, the police chief said, it will be anonymous.

KSAT reached out to SAPD Sunday evening to ask how many of the guns from Sunday’s event were found to be stolen. We’re still waiting to hear back.

About the Authors:

Daniela Ibarra joined the KSAT News team in July 2023. This isn’t her first time in the KSAT newsroom– the San Antonio native spent the summer of 2017 as an intern. Daniela is a proud Mean Green alum, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Texas.