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Turn in an assault weapon, get a tax break?

January 15, 2013|By Richard Simon
  • Guns are displayed for sale at the Rocky Mountain Gun Show, which was held earlier this month in Utah.
Guns are displayed for sale at the Rocky Mountain Gun Show, which was held… (George Frey/Bloomberg )

WASHINGTON-- Turn in an assault weapon, receive a tax break.

That's what's behind a new twist on gun buyback programs, one of the raft of bills introduced in Congress in the wake of last month's Newtown, Conn., school shooting, which would offer gun owners a $2,000 federal tax credit for turning in an assault weapon to police.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) sent the bill to Vice President Joe Biden, who is expected to present recommendations to President Obama this week on ways to reduce gun violence in the wake of the Newtown shooting.

She said she got the idea for the legislation--titled the Support Assault Firearm Elimination and Reduction for our Street Act--from a Connecticut resident who owns an AR-15.

"Gun buyback programs operate around the country with the intention of reducing the number of assault weapons, but ... a larger incentive could make more of an impact," she said in a letter to colleagues seeking their support.

Because gun buyback programs are run by local governments, it could be more difficult for cash-strapped cities and law enforcement departments to fund them, she said.

"The tax credit is substantial and refundable, which should lead to effectively getting more of these guns off the street, while sparing local government the cost,’’ she added.

Democratic Reps. Ted Deutch of Florida, Gerry Connolly of Virginia and Mike Quigley of Illinois on Tuesday also introduced the Buyback our Safety Act to provide $15 million over five years to match local and state funds used in gun buyback programs.  The measure would direct the National Academy of Sciences to identify guns most often used in violent crimes and allow the Justice Department to offer larger grants for buying guns most often used in violent crimes.

Cities over the years have dangled such incentives as concert tickets and grocery coupons to persuade gun owners who turn in weapons, though there has been much debate about the effectiveness of the buyback programs.

Los Angeles took in 2,037 firearms, including 75 assault weapons, at a gun buyback program held last month after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, according to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office. Gun owners were offered grocery gift cards worth up to $100 for handguns, shotguns and rifles and up to $200 for assault weapons.

DeLauro’s idea could run into the same trouble that President Clinton encountered when Republicans objected to his administration offering federal money to local governments to buy firearms. The George W. Bush administration ended  the program, saying there was no proof that it was taking guns from criminals.

There was no immediate response from the National Rifle Assn. to the latest proposal. But  Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president, said in 1999 that the group considered buyback programs mostly "sound bites and photo ops" that have no "impact on a criminal ... or a violent juvenile that wants a gun,’’ saying at the time that increasing funding for prosecuting violations of existing gun laws would do more to reduce gun violence.

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Sandy Hook group calls for 'real change,' but what does that mean?

richard.simon@latimes.com

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