Harris County officials hosted a fifth gun buyback event on Saturday, collecting more than 500 firearms from residents. 

The event, hosted by Harris County Commissioner Lesley Briones—who partnered with Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzales and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner—distributed 1,557 gift cards worth nearly $78,000 to residents who handed over their firearms. 

The gift cards were funded by the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), signed by President Joe Biden in March 2021 following the economic crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Residents handed over 559 firearms, including 155 semi-automatic handguns, 124 semi-automatic Rifles, 82 revolvers, 77 Shotguns, 59 hunting Rifles, 58 non-functioning firearms, and four single-shot guns.

According to a news release from Commissioner Briones, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, along with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), will process each firearm to determine if it was stolen or used in a crime. 

Alongside the 559 firearms obtained, 400 gun safes were distributed to participants, courtesy of the Houston Police Department and Spring Branch Management District. The HCSO also provided 1,000 gun locks. 

In September 2022, the Harris County Commissioners Court approved nearly $1.1 million in ARPA funding to host eight gun buyback events. In the previous four events, more than 4,000 guns have been collected and disposed of by Harris County. 

Texas Scorecard previously reported on a gun buyback event hosted by Harris County officials in June. The Houston Police Department described the previous event as “efforts to combat violence crimes by getting guns off the streets.” Democrat Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said, “This is just the start.”

The recent buyback event shows a trend in major Texas cities towards trying to disarm their residents. 

Over the past weekend, San Antonio hosted its first gun buyback event. It was reported that more than 900 firearms were traded in, and the event was cut short because it ran out of gift cards. 

Dallas City Councilman Jesse Moreno hosted his own gun buyback event in October. Moreno worked with the support of the office of U.S. Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D–TX), the Dallas City Marshal’s Office, Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown, and Dallas County Constable Michael Orozco. Individuals who turned in unwanted firearms received a $100 gift card for handguns—both working and non-working—and $200 gift card for rifles and semi-automatic firearms.

Chris McNutt, president of Texas Guns Rights, told Texas Scorecard that these events are a waste of taxpayer funds.

“A government can’t ‘buy back’ anything it never owned, so not sure how they can call it a buyback. But these taxpayer-funded confiscation schemes are not only ineffective in reducing crime but also a misallocation of public funds,” said McNutt.

“Many times, the government will hand out $200 gift cards to those surrendering a firearm, so people will often turn in broken guns or worse, they’ll purchase a $150 .22 and turn the new gun in for a profit—making an absolute mockery of the already foolish event,” added McNutt. “These events waste taxpayer dollars on symbolic gestures that do nothing to stop criminals or prevent crime. Our focus should be on empowering citizens to protect themselves, rather than on feel-good measures that achieve little practical benefit.” 

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.