Dallas judge's plan offers incentives for offenders who surrender weapons

A Dallas County judge is getting creative to get guns off the streets by offering incentives to offenders to surrender their weapons.

The program may be the first of its kind and is certainly something new in Dallas County where other gun surrender programs have failed.

Nicole Richard’s ex-husband was sentenced to 30 years in prison for targeting her and her two sons in 2013. All three survived the domestic violence attack.

It’s one case too many for Dallas County Criminal Court Judge Shequitta Kelly.

“I ask the question, ‘Do you possess any firearms? Any handguns or ammunition?’ on every single offender that pleads guilty in my court,” Kelly said. “And I can tell you the common response is no.”

Over the years, some churches have run their own gun buyback programs with success, but not so for county efforts.

A program in place since 2015 targeted only domestic violence suspects, but it required them to self-report if they possessed a gun and there was no financial incentive. The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office says it yielded only 125 guns, falling far short of expectations.

Kelly’s plan offers all offenders — even felons — the option of surrendering weapons to get a reduction in court costs, fines and/or community service.

“They aren’t getting a pat on the back for committing a crime,” she said. “They are just being incentivized to do something that we need them to do.”

So far, 23 fellow judges are on board as well as 6 police departments, including Dallas, whose officers will facilitate the surrenders.

Kelly says she’d hoped the city of Dallas would go even further.

“The goal was to expand the program so that those who have outstanding warrants for tickets could also get the benefit of getting those tickets waived for turning in their handguns,” Kelly said. “And, from my understanding, the city is not willing to take on that financial loss.”

A statement from the city of Dallas said,” The city will wait at least a few months before deciding whether to waive class c traffic offenses as part of the ‘Bring ‘em Back’ program. Some questions remain about that aspect of the program, but we appreciate Judge Kelly's efforts.”