PIEDMONT -- Piedmont resident Tom Nemeth has proposed a gun-buyback program for Piedmont, which is being supported in principle by city officials.
Nemeth has two daughters at Havens Elementary. He said his fourth-grader was upset by the massacre that claimed 26 lives at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., and Nemeth felt he had to do something positive in response.
"I want to show her that there are things we can do to make our world just a little bit safer. Taking this sort of action will be helpful for the community, as well as therapeutic," Nemeth said.
He pledged $1,000 toward a program, which would pay $200 each for five working guns turned into Piedmont police.
Interim police Chief Scott Wyatt said Wednesday that, while he appreciates Nemeth's proposal, a formal program would not work because it would take the limited officers on staff away from their regular duties.
Piedmont has had a voluntary gun-surrender program in place for several years. Wyatt said about 37 working weapons have been turned in by residents over the past five years.
"If people have a gun they don't want, we do this as a service to our residents," City Administrator Geoff Grote said. "We are very interested in removing unwanted guns from homes."
Grote said he would broach the concept to the City Council. Wyatt suggested that people turning in guns to the department for destruction would get a receipt that they could present to Nemeth for a possible payment. Wyatt did not support sending an officer to a home to retrieve a weapon.
Large cities with more crime problems such as Oakland and San Francisco have had recent success with gun buybacks with more than 600 weapons turned in. Piedmont does not fit that profile, although officials support raising awareness in their city for anyone who wishes to surrender a working weapon to police.
Nemeth suggested his idea to friend and City Councilman Dan Romero of Hercules.
Romero got a pledge of $100 of seed money from each Hercules council member and has secured matching and other pledges in hopes of raising $3,000 to $4,000 for a program in Hercules.
"As dads, we try to solve things," Romero said. "It's our small way of trying to help, what we can do as a community, even if we take one gun off the street. "
"We don't have major crime in Hercules, but it's a good little idea," Romero added.
Grote said he would consult further with Wyatt on Nemeth's suggestion.
"It's a generous offer," Grote said. "It's on everybody's minds after the tragedy in Connecticut."