Marin County leaders pay cash for guns in gun buy-back event

In an attempt to reduce gun violence, Marin County hosted a gun buy back event for the first time in six years; residents traded guns for cash.

County officials said they collected about 500 firearms from people at a number of county locations in 2016. Leaders began planning for another event in late 2019, but COVID-19 protocols put those plans on hold.

The event finally happened again Saturday morning, except this time only at one location: the Marin County Sheriff's Office. The county's District Attorney's Office helped navigate the outreach, whereas the city of San Rafael helped fundraise nearly $100,000 for the event.

"Everyday we hear, and we see guns being used in homicides, suicides, accidental discharges, domestic violence incidents," said Captain Roy Leon of the San Rafael Police Department.

The county cited statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the agency, gun-related homicides rose 35% from 2019 to 2020.

In the last two weeks, the nation read headlines of a deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 elementary school students and a mass shooting at a hospital in Oklahoma.

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San Rafael Mayor Kate Colin said those events are reigniting a conversation about guns at home.

"The events of the past couple of weeks have really underscored the importance of that," she said. "People don't want them in their homes."

The county offered $100 for every handgun, rifle or shotgun. You would get $200 for any semi-automatic or assault rifle, no questions asked.

Russ Ketron showed up to turn in guns, some of which he has owned since he was 16.

"The grandkids don't need it," he said. "The money is not the issue, the issue is doing what's right."

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District Attorney Lori Frugoli said moving forward, she wants the county to hold this event at least twice a year. She hopes it makes a difference.

"We're not pretending this will stop these mass shootings, but it is one action people can take to keep our communities safer," she said. "I think it is a moment in time for people, and they are having conversations in their homes and with family members."

Once the guns are taken from its owners, they are destroyed by officers. County leaders plan to announce a final tally of how many guns they collected and how much money they paid early next week.