St. Louis, MO – The mayor of the second most dangerous city in the United States announced a "guns for groceries" buyback program as she blamed guns on for the city’s increasing homicide rate at a press conference.
In a press conference held on Friday, Dec. 8, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said, “The level of violence in our city is at a crisis level.”
“It is apparent to most of us that we are awash in guns. They're being used to settle differences, defend territory, retaliate, take cars, do holdups,” the mayor said.
The crisis that Krewson referred to is this year’s homicide rate, which is the highest since 204 in 1997. The mayor said that the city of St. Louis has had 197 homicides so far this year, according to Newsweek.
Homicide rates in St. Louis have increased over the past four years, from 120 in 2013 to 159 in 2014, then 188 in both of the previous two years.
St. Louis police officers have confiscated nearly 2,000 guns this year, but “that’s not nearly enough," according to Krewson.
In the mayor's proposed gun buyback program, which could begin as soon as next week, citizens bring in their guns, and in exchange, receive grocery store gift certificates. The Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis is funding the program, according to KMOX.
Critics disagree with Krewson's views and have said that the city's problems run deeper than guns. Some have said that there have been gun buyback programs in the past only to see the crime rate continue to increase.
In an interview, anti-police activist State Rep. Bruce Franks told Newsweek, "I think she's trying something she feels is going to be effective, but in reality we just know that they're not."
Rep. Franks' brother was murdered in 1991, the same year that the city had a gun buyback program, and thousands of guns were turned in.
Despite this, Rep. Franks has a history rapping about gun violence. In 2015 he released a song a where he rapped about shooting snitches and dismembering the bodies.
In a tweet, Rep. Franks wrote:
"A lot of those turned out to be antique. We're seeing, go turn your guns in and then what?", according to Rep. Franks. He said the city should focus on adding resources to communities with high crime rates, which he said would make guns "irrelevant."
At the press conference, Krewson said funding was being increased for recreation and job programs. "We can't incarcerate our way out of this situation," she said.
The city of St. Louis has been the murder capital of the country for the past three years because of its murder rate, according to Newsweek.
Only about one-third of homicides committed in the city this year have been solved.