With the impact of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting still palpable, Mike Rich, vice moderator of Park Avenue Congregational Church United Church of Christ in Arlington, Mass., has a personal interest in curbing gun violence. So when the local Methodist church introduced the idea of a gun buyback event to Arlington-area congregations, Rich was eager to take part. In conjunction with the Arlington Police Department, Park Avenue Congregational UCC and three other churches will encourage people to exchange unwanted firearms for grocery store gift cards during the ecumenical event Sept. 28 at the Arlington Department of Public Works.
"We were all really moved by the Newtown, Conn., incident," said Rich, who is leading the event's publicity committee. "It was still fresh in all of our minds when we started planning this."
Arlington's gun buyback day is modeled after a similar event organized by churches and the police department in neighboring Falmouth, Mass., last spring, during which more than 200 firearms were exchanged. Arlington and Falmouth are similar in size and population (roughly 40,000 people), so Rich said the planning committee is hopeful for a similar outcome.
"Reactions to the program by everybody that I've spoken to personally and everybody that reports back to the organizing group have all been positive," Rich said. "We are hoping for a reduction in gun violence and a reduction in availability of guns for people who may impulsively use them and cause harm."
Grocery store gift cards will be given in exchange for the firearms. A $200 gift card will be given for assault weapons, $100 for revolvers, semi-automatics, shotguns and rifles, and $25 for BB or pellet guns or for inoperable firearms. The participating congregations are soliciting donations from individuals and businesses to purchase the gift cards, and are looking to raise a total of $20,000. Donations are 100-percent tax deductible and will be used to fund the upcoming and future gun buyback events. Donations can be made via the event's website.
No questions will be asked of anyone exchanging a firearm, and identification is not required. Amnesty for gun law violations will be offered to Arlington residents traveling to the event location. Guns must be unloaded with the safety engaged, and contained in a bag, box, or case prior to the exchange. All guns collected will be legally destroyed per police department policy.
"There are many excess, unwanted firearms in attics and basements around Arlington," said Arlington Police Chief Fred Ryan. "The buyback event provides the answer to the question, 'How do we safely dispose of these unwanted guns?'"