Gun buyback program in Savannah to be potentially investigated - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Gun buyback program in Savannah to be potentially investigated

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)
SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Chatham County leaders are raising questions about how safely a local nonprofit is operating a gun buyback program. 

Most gun buyback programs have a police partnership. The nonprofit raises the money and police handle the weapons. That's the case with most cities and counties that have the programs. The big concern is how securely those guns bought off the street were stored. 

Savannah Youth City, Inc. has collected dozens of firearms since starting the buyback program last fall. Just last week, we learned that the county manager sent a letter to the district attorney about concerns over how the guns were stored. According to those messages, the county manager told the district attorney that some of the guns from the program might have been stolen from the program. Now, she's asked to Georgia Bureau of Investigation to get involved. 

[Below is the letters sent by District Attorney Meg Heap and County Manager Lee Smith.]

"I think that anything we can do to better the lives of young people in Savannah is what we should do," said Beverlee Trotter, Director & CEO of Savannah Youth City, Inc. I think that the gun buyback program is positive."

Trotter says she wasn't aware of any guns being stolen from Savannah Youth City, and that she gave the guns to Alderman Van Johnson for safe keeping once her group purchased them. Alderman Johnson, a proponent of the gun buyback program since its inception, is not commenting until GBI finishes looking into the matter. Savannah Youth City has purchased dozens of guns off the streets for a little less than a year, meeting anyone anywhere to trade cash for guns, no questions asked. 

We spoke to a GBI agent on Thursday and learned that the agency hasn't even started the preliminary work to determine if this is a matter that needs to be looked into. In a letter dated last Thursday, Chatham, County Manager Lee Smith said to District Attorney Meg Heap that per a previous phone conversation they had, his office is formally requesting an investigation of the Savannah Youth City, Inc. gun buyback program, the process of the buyback, securing firearms, etc. 

The next day, DA Heap sent a letter to the special agent in charge of the GBI's Statesboro office, asking them to open an investigation in reference to the nonprofit's gun buyback program and a possible theft of firearms from the program. While no comment is coming from the county manager's office on Friday, he has this to say during a news conference last week. 

"Guns are purchased off the street all the time. There are programs around the nation like this one, which, there are good programs, but guns have to be safely held," County Manager, Lee Smith said. 

Alderman Johnson says the serial numbers were given to police for background checking purposes and that he hasn't heard of any red flags. Even though Metro Police Chief Jack Lumpkin was at the news conference when the program was announced last November, his department quickly and distinctly said the buyback program was a private venture and that Metro was not affiliated.

We'll continue to follow this story and bring you any new updates. 

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