By Gene Johnson Associated Press
SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn apologized Thursday for making a deliberate omission this week when he announced a plan to turn guns from a buyback program into plaques carrying messages of peace.
McGinn left the impression during a news conference on Tuesday that the 700-plus weapons collected at a highly publicized gun buyback in January would be used to make the plaques.
But, as first reported by KIRO-FM, the mayor knew those weapons had already been melted down into rebar.
“I apologize for not being more forthcoming at our press conference,” McGinn said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. “We will be using metal from guns acquired at our next gun buyback for our Weapons to Words youth outreach effort.”
McGinn said he learned the morning before the news conference that the guns had already been recycled. He said he didn’t explain that at the news conference because “I didn’t want this piece of information to distract from the program or the incredible support” of the sponsors of the program, Schnitzer Steel and the studio of famed glass artist Dale Chihuly.
Instead, the mayor said at the news conference: “We were inspired by the idea that we could take these weapons that were recovered, 750 at the first gun buy back, and do something meaningful with them — something of symbolic importance to our city, particularly after all the incidents of gun violence we have seen in this city over the years.”
The mayor’s news release later Tuesday explained it this way: “The plaques, made from upcycled steel that includes the weapons we recovered, will be placed in Seattle parks.”
Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, a spokesman for Seattle police, said Thursday that the department had the guns melted down due to “a miscommunication.”
The buyback program was announced a month after last December’s elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., by city leaders sick of hearing about gun violence. Private sponsors, including Amazon.com, contributed tens of thousands of dollars so that people could anonymously turn in their weapons for shopping cards worth up to $200. The plan included using the collected guns in a public art project.