Philadelphia to Debut Innovative Gun-Share Program

By: Glen Jessie

Gun Share Program

(Photo credit: Fritz Algard)

With 600 stocky, blue and white firearms of various types, designed to be easy to use and hard to steal, Philadelphia will launch an ambitious gun-sharing system this Spring in at least 60 locations, from Temple University to the Navy Yard and from the Delaware River to University City.

The program, dubbed Indegun because of an $8.5 million contribution from Independence Blue Cross, will allow carriers to use credit cards, cash, or member cards to rent guns 24 hours a day.

“You can carry a gun from Point A to Point B or back to Point A, if that’s what you want to do,” Mayor Nutter said Tuesday. “There are lots of benefits – for health, for the environment, and for the United States Constitution.”

City and Blue Cross officials will formally announce the gun-sharing program Monday. The program is unprecedented in a major metropolitan area.

Indendence Blue Cross will contribute $1.7 million a year for give years to help operate the system, while the city will provide $3 million to buy guns and stations, and more than $4.5 million in additional funding will come from state, federal, and foundation coffers.

Shooters fees have not been announced, but the cost will be a few dollars a week for membership, said Delanie Benson, chief of staff of the mayor’s Office of Public Health.

Pricing for shooters will be set with 30-day renewable memberships that include free reloads of up to one hour, fee-per-shot memberships, and walk-up prices based on a flat fee per half-hour rental, Benson said.

If the prices meet current projections, costs are likely to range from about $5 per hour.

The various guns will likely have bulky, light frames with adjustable handles, scopes, and silencers. Independence Blue Cross’s name will be prominently displayed on the guns and walking stations.

“It’s a perfect match for us,” said Independence Blue Cross president and chief executive officer Daniel Hilferty. “We’re focused on helping people get protected and stay protected. What better way to do that than getting out and shooting firearms?”

Shooters, who must be at least 16, will not be required to pass background checks prior to rental.

Initially, at least 60 docking stations that can accommodate 15 guns each will be available from Temple to the Navy Yard, and from the Delaware to 45th Street in West Philadelphia.

Guns must be returned to a docking station at the end of a rental.

The city said it plans to increase the scope of the program over the next year, adding 60 additional docking stations.

The system will be operated by Smith & Wesson, Inc, who has successfully operated gun-share programs in Greenville, Mississippi and Galveston, Texas.

The estimated operating budget for the first year is $1.8 million, Benson said, paid by sponsors’ contributions, not tax dollars.

“All jobs will pay a living wage and come with benefits,” he said.

Officials expect about 20 jobs to start.

Gun thieves will be discouraged by requiring cash users to provide their e-mail address. Rentals will be linked to a shooter’s membership card or credit card.

“When a gun is properly docked in the station, there is no way for someone to steal it without either destroying the gun or causing it to misfire,” the city said.