OAKLAND, Calif. - For the first time in nearly a decade, Oakland police participated in a gun buyback program.
Saturday’s event resulted in 131 guns turned in, and over $10,000 worth of gift certificates given out, according to officials.
Organizers acknowledge that gun buybacks aren’t a solution for reducing crimes like homicides, but they say they do play a role in increasing safety.
Myriad types of firearms were turned over to Oakland police, everything from old weapons of war, to handguns. One woman had a personal reason for handing in a gun she recently discovered at her home.
"I found a firearm in my basement and some ammunition, so I wanted to get rid of it because I’m very anti-gun," said a woman who gave her first name, Maryanne. "My son was killed by a gun in 2018."
Participants pulled into the back parking lot of At Thy Word Ministries on International Boulevard in Oakland, where they were welcomed by volunteers and officers who handled the weapons. It’s been nearly a decade since OPD participated in a gun buyback.
"I really think we just haven’t had the sponsorship that we needed to make sure there was funding available to provide money to those who were willing to turn in those firearms," said Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong.
A coalition of groups raised $25k in donations for the buyback. In exchange for the weapons, people were given $100 to $300 dollar gift cards for a retailer or gas, and there were A’s tickets too. They called the program Guns to Gardens. The first 50 people also received a unique gardening tool made from previously discarded weapons.
"This is the end of a shotgun barrel and so what we’ve done is we’ve taken the barrel, we’ve slit it open it up and cut it, then forged it into the correct shape for a little shovel," said John Rogers, a Blacksmith who helped make the gardening tools.
Cynics argue gun buybacks don’t lower homicide rates and criminals don’t turn in guns, but organizers and police say buybacks still help.
"Every gun out of the house is potentially saving a life," said Paula Hawthorn with Brady United. "And that’s why we’re doing this."
"We know that a large percentage of firearms that are recovered, used in other crimes, are stolen firearms, and so just having as many firearms out of the hands of criminals as we can will help us deal with our gun violence issue in Oakland," said Chief Armstrong.
A woman who wanted to remain anonymous got rid of a gun she said she didn’t need and described how it felt.
"Awesome! And bonus, I got a garden tool for my new home with a nice big garden, so score all the way around."
The collected firearms will be destroyed and re-purposed. Oakland police say they plan to participate in future gun buybacks.