Sheriff, mayor revitalizing gun bounty program

Program takes more than 172 illegal guns off Jacksonville's streets in 7 years

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As the nation grapples with whether to tighten gun control laws, Jacksonville leaders are revitalizing an existing program to get illegal guns off the streets.

The gun bounty program offers $1,000 for any illegal weapon turned in to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. It was very successful when it was launched in 2006, but interest waned over the years. With the spotlight back on guns, Sheriff John Rutherford and Mayor Alvin Brown are working together to revive it.

"They put this community -- you and I -- at risk by carrying the gun," Rutherford said. "I want to put them at risk for carrying that gun by offering a $1,000 bounty to all of their buddies to turn them in."

In the seven years of the gun bounty program, the sheriff says his officer make 265 arrests and paid $172,000 paid for illegal guns.

"Most of these guys will turn in their mamma's for $1,000," Rutherford said. "It's been a very successful program."

This is not a gun buyback -- which some communities are doing and Jacksonville offered many years ago. This program only targets illegal guns -- those either stolen or that have fallen into the hands of criminals.

"It would be the sheriff and I working with the business community to raise the money to support it, to get ex-felons off the street who have illegal guns," Brown said. "That is the key: to make it safe. On my side of the ledger, I will focus on prevention and intervention."

Channel 4's safety expert Ken Jefferson has been involved with both gun buybacks and bounty programs. He says buybacks don't work and the bounty has limited success, but its better than nothing.

"This will not get a whole lot of guns off the street, but it will get some off the street," Jefferson said. "So as long as you are getting some guns off the street, you show you are trying to make a difference, then I think it's a good program."

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