Mayor Paul Soglin said Tuesday he is launching a gun bounty program, aimed at generating tips about people who use or hoard illegal firearms, using money from his own office budget.
At a news conference Tuesday, Soglin said the city is studying gun bounty programs in other cities, such as Baltimore, but said Madison can no longer wait until those studies are finished. Under the program, which Soglin said is effective immediately, rewards of up to $1,000 will be given to anyone who reports others who possess guns that have been used in shootings or those being stored by people not legally allowed to possess them.
“The city of Madison cannot control who carries a firearm, who buys a firearm, who sells a firearm,” he said, adding that the city is “not pleased” that the GOP-led state Legislature has loosened rules for gun ownership in Wisconsin. “But we can try and retrieve these firearms and have them ultimately lead us to the perpetrators.”
Soglin, a Democrat, is considering a run for governor against Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Soglin said studies of other cities’ gun bounty programs will be finished within weeks. But while those reviews are being completed, “I’m prepared to use funds in my office and to make $1,000 available for anyone who assists in the reporting of an illegal gun that has been identified as being used” to fire guns at homes, vehicles or people.
Madison has seen a spate of shootings in recent months in which several people have been killed or wounded, while others have involved shots fired at buildings or vehicles.
“We’ve been contemplating this for a couple of weeks now, and I just don’t want to wait,” Soglin said. “I figure there’s very little downside. We may be wasting our time and a little bit of money, but I think it’s worth it.”
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Soglin said the program differs from gun buyback programs used by cities in the past in that it doesn’t simply offer cash for any gun that someone might have sitting around the house. Guns used in violent acts, he said, aren’t the ones that are turned in under those buyback programs, Soglin said.
Soglin also pledged to work with leaders of Madison neighborhoods to stem the recent tide of violence but said it is up to neighborhood residents to decide the standards they want for their neighborhoods and to work to achieve those standards.
A community plea
“It cannot be effective if it is solely the work of elected officials, or of leaders of nonprofits,” Soglin said. “It has to come from people who live in the neighborhoods.”
Leadership within neighborhoods, he said, “can set a new tone and make it very clear that we will not accept violence, we will not accept the presence of individuals who shoot guns at other people. We will not accept the storing and the hiding of these firearms.”
When Madison’s reviews of other cities’ bounty programs are finished, Soglin said, funding for Madison’s program from sources other than the mayor’s office budget may be possible. Standards dictating exact terms for bounties would also be hammered out under a more formalized program, he said.
But Soglin emphasized that anti-violence efforts must have community support and leadership “by the people of this city who know who’s firing the guns, who has the guns, who is intimidating people to hide the guns.” It is also the responsibility of every gun owner, he said, to properly secure their weapons so they are not stolen and used to commit crimes.