Nearly 30 drivers were waiting in their cars in the Mt. Peace Baptist Church parking lot at 9 a.m. Saturday when the Raleigh Police Department kicked off its gun buyback program.
Roughly an hour later, the line was four rows deep in the parking lot and had spilled into Raleigh Boulevard, stretching nearly a quarter-mile to the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard intersection.
At the front of the line, Raleigh police officers sheltered under tents from the misty rain until they had to go out and retrieve unloaded weapons from car trunks and pickup beds. They filled out a form with information about each weapon before storing the firearms. The process was slow, complicated in part, one officer said, by drivers arriving with multiple guns to turn in.
Drivers received gift cards valued at up to $200 for each firearm surrendered to police. Other types of guns — including Airsoft, BB guns, and inoperable, altered and damaged weapons — also were accepted.
In just over four hours, police collected hundreds of firearms; the exact number was unavailable at press time. Police Lt. Jason Borneo said each firearm would be compared to stolen firearm and violent crime reports.
Elizabeth and Sam Kelly arrived early Saturday, driving in from High Point with their dog, two handguns and a rifle. She inherited the weapons from her father, Elizabeth Kelly said, and they just didn’t have a use for them anymore.
They got $600 in Costco gift cards for the three guns, much more than they would have gotten selling them to their gun range, Sam Kelly said. It’s a great event, he added, but he’s still not sure how much it will do to make the streets safer, since “we don’t live in Raleigh or Durham, and these are guns that we came into possession of through her father who died in Illinois.”
Rising gun violence a Raleigh priority
Gun violence is a priority for the city this year, Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin told The News & Observer in an interview this week.
The N&O has reported that 69 people were shot in Raleigh and more were killed in the first six months of 2022 than in the first six months of 2021 or 2020. A Wake County deputy also was shot and killed just over a week ago — one of seven deputies shot in North Carolina this month, two of them fatally.
Deputy Ned Byrd, 48, was buried Friday following a service that brought hundreds of people to Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh. A man has been charged with his murder, and more arrests are pending, the Wake County Sheriff’s Office has said.
Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson said Saturday’s gun buyback was a first for Raleigh as far as she knows, and is part of a multi-pronged effort to tackle crime and violence.
It followed two buyback events in Durham this year, including one on Aug. 6 when Durham police spent $35,000 — $25,000 more than originally planned — to secure 295 firearms. Durham police also collected just over 100 firearms at an April buyback event.
“The impetus for this is really we’re just doing everything we can to address gun violence and gun safety,” Patterson said. “We want actionable strategies, because we want to make sure if there’s ways to get guns off the street, we want to do that, and (in) a way that people voluntarily surrender those guns, because you know a lot of times there’s the thought that we’re taking away someone’s guns.”
The N.C. Department of Public Safety is planning a follow-up education campaign focused on safe gun storage, Baldwin told the N&O this week. Educating gun owners is a critical part of reducing the rise in gun violence across the nation, Patterson said.
“The big thing is we want to prevent any type of firearm getting into the wrong hands. Very easily, a house could be broken into, a car could be broken into, and a firearm taken. This year already there’s been over 270 guns that have been taken in car break-ins,” she said.
She declined to say how much money the city had allocated to the buyback event, which also was sponsored by the Raleigh-Apex Chapter of the NAACP, the N.C. Carolina Chapter of Moms Demand Action, and the Raleigh Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.
Raleigh-Apex NAACP President Gerald Givens noted that bringing guns into a situation never makes the situation better. It’s important to show young people what can happen as a result of gun violence and give them space to talk openly about their values, he added.
“As a civil rights leader, nothing is more important that public safety. If we can’t vote safely, if we can’t go to school safely, if we can’t go to church safely, that’s not freedom,” Givens said. “We have to do everything that we can to make sure that where we live, work and play is as safe as possible, and that’s what today is about.”
Pistols, AK-47 surrendered to police
Abraham Jones, 80, had the first spot in line Saturday to turn in a 22-caliber revolver that he got when he was 21 years old.
Raleigh police are doing a good thing by holding the buyback, said Jones, who’s been living in Raleigh for 65 years. Now, it’s time to vote and get the federal government back in line, he said.
“I wanted to do that, and I also wanted to make a statement to the city of Raleigh that we have a lot to do, but that’s a good start on the quality of life,” Jones said.
Eli Hernandez waited behind him to turn in a semi-automatic AK-47 assault rifle. He didn’t need the gun any more, said Hernandez, a retired infantryman with the U.S. Army.
“It’s a good thing for safety,” he said about the buyback.
Liz Arnold, a Wake Forest resident and Moms Demand Action volunteer, arrived Saturday to help with an information booth advocating for better gun laws and safety.
She didn’t expect to see so many cars at the event because of the weather, but it’s “thrilling,” Arnold said, noting that the group’s education campaign, Be Smart, is about teaching people to keep their guns unloaded and secure, so they don’t fall into kids’ hands.
“We really want people to know that ultimately it’s an adult’s responsibility to keep kids safe, and we know a lot of the school shootings, the kids got unsecured guns from their parents’ homes or a relative’s home, or somebody helps them buy it,” Arnold said.
Givens, 50, noted that he has lost six family members to gun violence, including his grandfather, an uncle and three cousins, and he also was shot at multiple times as a young man living in western Detroit.
But it was the death of his 22-year-old brother in 1997 that “broke” him, Givens said. He was serving in the U.S. Air Force at the time and had to drive 750 miles from Florida to Missouri when he got the news. He didn’t get there in time to say goodbye, he said.
“The pain I felt walking away from my brother’s casket was unlike any pain I’ve ever felt in my entire life,” he said.
This story was originally published August 20, 2022 3:13 PM.
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