Evanston working to develop gun buyback program

Rachel Janik, Reporter

The city is partnering with the Evanston Community Foundation and other local groups to implement a gun buyback program to reduce the number of operable weapons and ammunition available on the streets.

Carolyn Murray, co-chair of the West Evanston Strategic Team developed the idea for the program in July, initially contacting Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) regarding frequently hearing shots fired in the middle of the night. The Sept. 22 shooting death of Dajae Coleman expedited plans for the buyback program, which is slated to launch sometime in December.

Coleman was shot and killed Sept. 22 on Church Street while walking home from a party. The death of the Evanston Township High School freshman has sparked conversations about youth violence far outside of Evanston, with national celebrities like LeBron James expressing their condolences on Twitter.

Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl told The Daily on Thursday that she is aware of the urgent need for a response to the shooting.

“Sometimes it’s better to do a program well than do it quickly,” she said. “In this case, we plan to do it quickly and well.”

The city is planning to pay $100 for each operable gun, Murray said. The city will also accept clips, bullets and cases.

Illinois State Police Lt. Col. Terry Lemming, who advised Murray on the buyback, estimated the program could produce more than 100 guns.

In order to fund such an operation, the city will have traise at least $10,000. EFC is managing donations for the buyback program, donating a founding contribution of $1,000. The group has raised $7,000 so far, Tisdahl said.

Murray declined to reveal an exact date for the buyback so that gun wholesalers wouldn’t take advantage of the event, which will be restricted to Evanston residents only.

Lemming, who has organized many other gun buybacks throughout Illinois, said such programs can be effective in removing guns from the streets as well as essential to avoiding gun-related accidents and suicides within private homes. He also emphasized that such buybacks are not anti-gun by nature.

“What we’re trying to do is get unwanted guns out,” he said. “We aren’t trying to take guns away from lawful owners.”

Guns burglarized from homes are a major arms source for gangs, Lemming added. Once gangs gain control of handguns, the situation will almost always become deadly, and the community suffers the most, he said.

As a 5th Ward resident who has experienced neighborhood gun violence in the past, including the recent Coleman shooting, Murray said she expects those who will benefit the most from the buyback are the children of Evanston.

“We are trying,” she said. “We are really trying hard to work with our community to make things better, and to give our kids other alternatives.”