Emanuel, McCarthy announce gun buy-back fund

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CHICAGO -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy announced a $250,000 fund to enable religious and community organizations to host gun buy-back events. The money may be used for organization, advertising and $100 cash cards for each weapon turned in anonymously- with no questions asked.

"We're going to try everything we can to bring a level of security and safety throughout the city of Chicago so that our families and our children have the opportunity to grow up free from violence," Emanuel said Monday afternoon at Greater Open Door Baptist Church on the West Side.

The program signals a new strategy for gun recovery, as buy-backs have long been single events hosted by the Chicago Police Department. Emanuel said that more Chicagoans have roles to play in stopping gun violence during a year in which homicide numbers are up 20 percent from 2014.

"This is a way to do it, in our view, in a more effective way," Emanuel said. "Working through the religious communities that know the individuals in the communities and neighborhoods who have guns. So it's a way of responding and making it a more effective program."

Shooting totals are expected to exceed those from last year. So far in 2015, there have been close to 2,440. Last year's total over 12 months was 2,587.

"Every single gun that we get off the street gives us the opportunity to prevent somebody from becoming the victim of gun violence," McCarthy said.

The $250,000 now available has been diverted from the CAPS program. To critics who say that buy-backs don't work, McCarthy says that they do.

"I've seen a grandmother come in with assault weapons that she took from underneath her grandson's bed," he said. "That kid was a gangbanger, and there is no doubt in my mind that taking that gun off the street saved a life, at least that day."

The announcement comes in the wake of the death of three year-old Eian Santiago Saturday. He was killed when his six year-old brother found their father's loaded revolver on top of their refrigerator. The boy pointed it in Eian's direction, and he was shot in the head.

"It's just another tragedy that didn't need to happen," McCarthy said. "It was an illegal gun, and whether the father is a former gang member or gang member- whatever the case might be- this is what happens when guns get into the wrong hands."