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Gun Grab Fail: Buyback event offers $500 per person, leading many to show up in an effort to upgrade their arsenal

A city-sponsored gun buyback in New Orleans sparked a social media backlash after scores of people were left standing in the rain without a chance to turn weapons into cash Saturday.

Officials with Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration acknowledged that the buyback quickly “hit capacity,” but they nevertheless described it as a success.

Critics said the event was poorly organized and that the giveaway amount of $500 per person was too high, leading many to show up in an effort to upgrade their arsenal.

Meanwhile, one academic expert who has researched buybacks said there is little evidence that they reduce homicides, suicides or accidental shootings.

“It was a waste of time and it was a PR stunt,” said Algiers resident Cecilia Graham, who left with guns in hand after two hours. “It was totally mismanaged.”

The buyback was scheduled to last for three hours on Saturday at New Hope Baptist Church in Central City. The city said it would give $500 — more than the cost of some new handguns at local retailers — to anyone who turned in a working weapon.

Gun owners had to prove residency in New Orleans, but they did not have to show photo identification.

Money for the event came from the Edward Wisner Donation, a city-administered charitable trust that supports city programs. City officials did not say how many guns they collected or how much money was spent.

Many residents said they arrived at the church to find lines snaking around the block amid general confusion. Dozens or hundreds were turned away well before the event’s scheduled 2 p.m. end time, they said. Cantrell herself tweeted that the event had reached capacity shortly before 11:30 a.m.