An Arms Meltdown In Seattle -- Guns Destroyed Were Collected In City's Buy-Back Program

Some 900 guns collected in a gun buy-back program in Seattle were melted today for other uses, in this case a machine used in recycling.

"It's a lot of metal," said Kay Godefroy, executive director of the Seattle Neighborhood Group, which helped handle financing for the gun buy-back program.

The guns, which filled 60 boxes, each box weighing about 50 pounds, were collected in a drive last fall by a group called Stop the Violence. The organization raised more than $93,000 and bought 1,782 handguns from people who brought them to collection points at police stations. Vouchers worth $50 were given out for each weapon turned in.

The weapons destroyed today were put into a crucible at the Western Steel Casting Co., 145 S. Horton St., where they were mixed with other metal, ultimately to be turned into other things, said Godefroy.

Western Steel handled the weapons free, since the amount of metal was insignificant in terms of the tons of material usually handled there daily.

"They're really doing us a favor," said Godefroy.

The process today was separate from another drive by Stop the Violence to help raise money to allow the City of Seattle to destroy weapons seized by police, said Godefroy.

In that case, the Police Department is holding confiscated handguns and refusing to auction them. State law once required such auctions but now allows the weapons to be destroyed if the city pays a $50,000 fee to compensate for the loss of auction revenues.

Some police agencies have been reluctant to hold such auctions because of the possible effect of putting the weapons back on the streets, where they could be used against police.

Seattle holds 7,000 to 8,000 confiscated handguns. Stop the Violence and a law firm are heading a drive to raise the money to pay the fee.

"It was the last chance to see the guns go," Godefroy said in reference to today's meltdown, although a few weapons were kept out to be used in a memorial to victims of violence.