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Published: Sunday, 6/9/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

KICKER

City-sponsored buyback program collects 185 guns

Area residents turn over firearms for $50 each at 1st event in decade

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Toledo police Officer Bill Michalski, right, looks over a shotgun that belonged to the father of the woman at left as Sgt. Anita Madison looks on. The ‘no-questions-asked’ buyback was held Saturday. Toledo police Officer Bill Michalski, right, looks over a shotgun that belonged to the father of the woman at left as Sgt. Anita Madison looks on. The ‘no-questions-asked’ buyback was held Saturday.
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The $50 that Jim Bartlett got for a rusty silver 22-caliber revolver was only part of the reason he went to the Toledo Police Department’s anonymous handgun-buyback program Saturday.

Mr. Bartlett said surrendering the handgun will make his home safer for his family.

“I’ve got a 12-year-old daughter, and she doesn’t need to be around a gun like this,” he said.

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Mr. Bartlett of Swanton said he had no idea of the handgun’s value. The voucher he received during the one-day event probably will pay for gas or other small purchases. “The $50 will come in handy,” he said.

The “no-questions-asked” gun buyback, held at People’s Missionary Baptist Church, 1101 Heston St., netted 185 guns, said Sgt. Joe Heffernan, the department’s public information officer.

The program, the first in 10 years for the city, offered $50 vouchers for each handgun turned in, with a maximum of two guns per person. Handguns needed to be in working order to receive payment, but people could turn in inoperable firearms, shotguns, rifles, starter pistols, BB guns, pellet guns, and unwanted ammunition at no charge for proper disposal.

Police said a line of people formed outside before the program in the church basement began at 10 a.m.

“There has been a lot of interest in the program. We haven’t done one of these in quite a while. That may explain the reason for the interest,” Sergeant Heffernan said.

The guns turned in to police included an assortment of handguns as well as shotguns and rifles. Also turned in were several sawed-off long guns and one assault rifle, officers said.

Officers Ed Mack, left, and Curtis Stone place a barrel of guns collected during the event into a police vehicle outside People's Missionary Baptist Church. Officers Ed Mack, left, and Curtis Stone place a barrel of guns collected during the event into a police vehicle outside People's Missionary Baptist Church.
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Sergeant Heffernan said the buyback is designed as a community service to give citizens a ready means to rid their homes of guns they don’t want or may not know how to use.

“They may have gotten them as an inheritance but don’t have the knowledge to use them or have no interest in learning. They want to make sure they have a safe way and responsible way of disposing them,” the sergeant said. “These are guns that now won’t fall into the wrong hands. Someone who wants to responsibly dispose of a firearm by giving it to police is ensuring that it won’t get stolen by a criminal and used in criminal acts.”

All guns surrendered during the one-day program will be checked through identification stamps to determine if they may have been stolen. They then will be destroyed.

People who attended the program could obtain free gun locks and learn about city and community groups and the programs they have to offer.

Gabriel Burgete, who staffed a table for the Toledo Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children, said the gun buyback fits in well with her organization’s goals. His son, General Hurst, was shot to death on New Year’s Eve in 2006 at the age of 22.

“Getting just one gun off the street will make one person’s life safer,” Mr. Burgete said. “It is one less tool on the streets for criminal acts.”

Partners in the buyback program included the Reentry Coalition of Northwest Ohio — a collaboration of public agencies, nonprofits, volunteers, and faith-based partners that helps bring services to released offenders — and Coalition for Hope, a program created by Mayor Mike Bell in 2011 to unite community leaders and residents against youth violence.

Others hold signs offering more money to buy back weapons.  The city of Toledo partnered with community groups for the one-day program. Others hold signs offering more money to buy back weapons. The city of Toledo partnered with community groups for the one-day program.
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Others participating were the Toledo Safe-T-City program, Toledo Department of Neighborhoods, Toledo Youth Commission, Toledo Board of Community Relations, and Toledo Community Initiative to Reduce Violence.

Buyback participants with old guns encountered about a half-dozen private gun collectors outside the church who competed with the city-sponsored program.

Andy Glenn of Springfield Township said he shares the same interest with police: buying unwanted guns and getting them off Toledo’s streets.

“We believe in getting the guns into the hands of responsible gun owners who are not going to be committing crimes in Toledo. We are private citizens who own guns. We are trying to give people a little bit more money than what they can get inside,” he said.

While Mr. Glenn offered $50 to $75 cash for selected guns, others outside the church held signs promising twice the money the city program paid for working handguns.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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