While the Austin, Texas, police were offering grocery cards in exchange for unwanted firearms over the weekend, local activists showed up to outbid the men in uniform, insisting liberty would be better served if the guns were in the hands of law-abiding citizens instead.

At the “no-questions-asked” event held at Oak Meadow Baptist Church in South Austin, the Austin Police Department offered, for example, a $100 Visa grocery card for an unwanted handgun. The activists offered $110 in cash.

“We don’t agree with the ‘Guns for Groceries’ program, because they’re going to destroy most of the firearms,” explained John Bush, executive director of the group Texans for Accountable Government. “The firearms that we purchase, we’re going to put them in the hands of [Texans] who are in need of firearms to protect their families but they can’t afford them.”

The group’s website explains further: “TAG holds strongly to the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms and agrees with the countless studies that show that firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens makes for a safer city – not a more dangerous environment, as APD’s ‘Guns for Groceries’ implies.”

A TAG video of the gun-exchange day can be seen below:

According to its website, TAG is a non-partisan political action committee “formed with the ambition of reigning in the intrusive and expanding reach of government … to put the reins of government back into the hands of individual American citizens.”

The organization criticized the “Guns for Groceries” program as a merely “feel-good” event that costs the taxpayers money and does little to actually safeguard people, as those turning in guns were not likely to be criminals but “grandmas and grandpas.” It even blasted the event as “an effort to disarm the economically disadvantaged.”

Police on site, however, insisted the program is popular, funded in part by the Greater Austin Crime Commission and the Jastrow Family Foundation and does serve a purpose:

“People who have weapons in their home, it could be possible their home could be burglarized, and the weapon could get into the arms of a criminal,” Lt. Ely Reyes told KVUE-TV, Austin. “It also prevents children from accessing these weapons.”

Lt. Reyes also explained to TAG that the collected guns would be checked against criminal databases and forensic testing before being destroyed, to see if they had been identified as used in illegal activity.

Richard Hill, president of the Greater Austin Crime Commission, told the Austin American-Statesman that in only the first few hours of the event, police had collected about 400 guns and expected to give away $40,000 worth of gift cards.

Afterwards, TAG reported that they had exchanged cash for over a dozen firearms, while private purchasers also showed up to buy guns, rather than see them melted down.

TAG’s executive director insisted that public safety was served far better by his organization’s efforts to put firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens than the police program’s swap of groceries for guns.

“The groceries are going to go bad in a week,” Bush said, “the firearm will be there to protect you and your family and your community for life.”

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