News Column

Seattle to Turn Guns Into Plaques

May 8, 2013

Lynn Thompson

The 716 weapons collected during a January gun buyback in Seattle will be melted down and turned into plaques inscribed with children's words about what a violence-free future means to them, Mayor Mike McGinn said Tuesday.

The goal, he said, is to turn the weapons into something meaningful and symbolic.

"These upcycled plaques, inscribed with the hopes and dreams of the next generation, will transform weapons of violence into something positive," McGinn said at a news conference at Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle Center.

The effort was quickly ridiculed by Rush Limbaugh on the conservative figure's national talk-radio show. That denunciation was just as quickly heralded by McGinn's communication staff, and McGinn tweeted that Limbaugh's mocking must mean "we're doing it right."

The mayor said no taxpayer money will be used in the "Weapons to Words" program. The city Office of Arts and Culture will name a panel to choose the winning entries from those submitted by Seattle students in the first through 12th grades.

Schnitzer Steel will donate the melting of the weapons and fabricating of the steel into plaques. Chihuly Studios will donate the engraving and placement of the plaques at parks around the city.

McGinn also said the city plans a second gun buyback this summer, though the date and location haven't been set.

The January buyback was under Interstate 5 in downtown Seattle and was criticized because of the long lines of people waiting to turn in weapons and a chaotic scene as dozens of gun dealers attempted to purchase weapons. Police said they couldn't stop the dealers because state law allows third-party gun sales.

McGinn has since said city law allows police to restrict private sales on city sidewalks and streets.

Gun-rights and gun-control groups alike have questioned buybacks, saying studies have shown no link between them and reduced violence.

People turning in guns at the Seattle buyback were given donated gift cards of $100 or $200, depending on the size of the weapon.

Dave Workman, senior editor of TheGunMag, a publication of the Second Amendment Foundation, said the city does appear to have the authority to restrict commercial sales on sidewalks and streets.

He repeated his doubts about buyback programs, saying all they accomplish is the impression something is being done.

He also blogged Tuesday about McGinn's plan for the inscribed plaques:

"Presumably, children submitting any message about mommy using a firearm to protect herself against a rapist or stalker or violent ex-husband or boyfriend might not be a winner."

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Source: Copyright Seattle Times (WA) 2013