Senate backs Bush plan to terminate buyback program in setback for gun control forces
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Senate voted Thursday to back President Bush’s plan to kill the government’s gun buyback program, handing a victory to gun-rights forces.
Senators voted 65-33 against a proposal by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to provide $15 million for the program, created less than two years ago by President Clinton. The Bush administration announced last month that it was ending the program, saying there was no proof that it was taking guns from criminals.
Under the program, local police departments received up to $500,000 to buy guns in and around public housing projects for about $50 each. The weapons were then destroyed.
”Someone is alive today because of this program,” Schumer said.
Opponents said the program was a failure that siphoned money that public housing authorities could better use to upgrade housing or to help the homeless or others.
”Do they take away the semiautomatic and the .38 used in commission of crimes? Absolutely not,” said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho.
The vote was not a clear referendum on the Senate’s sentiment on gun issues. To pay for his amendment, Schumer would have taken the money from funds provided to public housing authorities for anti-drug efforts, a program some lawmakers were reluctant to raid.
Nonetheless, the buyback initiative has been opposed by the National Rifle Association and supported by gun-control advocates.
The vote was the second victory for Bush and pro-gun forces in less than a month. In July, the House voted to back Attorney General John Ashcroft’s plan to shorten to one day the period the government keeps background-check records of firearms purchasers.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development, which administered the buyback program, credited it with removing 20,000 guns from the streets of 80 cities in its first year. But the agency also said the buybacks were removing just 1 percent to 2 percent of guns from those communities.
The battle came as the Senate debated a $113.4 billion measure financing housing, environment, veterans and science programs for next year. The House version of the bill, approved last week, contained no money for the buyback program.
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