Second gun buyback a success

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck
By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck
By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck
By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck
By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- Dozens of cars lined up hours before a gun buyback event was set to start in Southwest Phoenix Saturday morning.  Folks were eager to turn in a weapon in exchange for a $100 to $200 grocery gift card.

With people waiting, Phoenix Police started the event early. From handguns to rifles and everything in between, people wanted to get rid of their unwanted firearms.

"I think it would be a lot safer if you turn in guns," explained one anonymous owner who said he didn't need his gun for target practice anymore. "It doesn't make any sense if you don't have a use for them. It's just at home collecting dust. And for safety, if you have kids around, even more reason it should be turned in."

This is the second buyback in the last two weekends.

Last Saturday, more than 800 guns were collected. Such a successful event left fewer gift cards to go around.

In fact, this weekend's buyback event was scaled down to just one location, at Betania Presbyterian Church near 39th Avenue and Thomas. The original plan was to hold events at three locations throughout Phoenix.

Across the street, dealers held signs as they tried to buy these guns before they were turned into police. Private sales like this are legal according to Phoenix Police Sgt. Steve Martos. 

"Obviously, they're within their right to do that. I think this goes contrary to what this event is all about. Contrary to what we're trying to accomplish," said Sgt. Martos.

The goal of the event is to get guns off the streets and destroyed in a safe manner, before they get into the hands of a criminal.

But Saturday's buyback event was cut short, because in less than two hours, officers ran out of gift cards to hand out.

Ron Popko arrived after police ran out of gift cards, but he still turned in his old gun that had been sitting around his house for more than two decades. 

"I didn't care if I got a gift certificate or not, just to get it out of the house," said Popko.

It was the same story for Mack Macdonald. He turned in a gun despite not getting a gift card.

The retired fire department paramedic has seen firsthand the damage that guns can do.

"I've got grandkids now. I don't want this gun anymore around the house," Macdonald said. 

And what about selling to a dealer who was ready to pay cash right then and there? 

"It's not worth it, it'll just wind up back on the street.... I wouldn't leave it (the gun) if they weren't gonna destroy it," added Macdonald.

Sgt. Martos said a total of 176 guns were collected on Saturday, bringing the total from the two weekends to 979 guns.

Phoenix police will process all the weapons to see if any are stolen or linked to any crimes.

Whatever isn't returned to the rightful owner or turned into evidence, will be safely destroyed.  

A $100,000 anonymous donation given to Arizonans For Gun Safety is what funded the gift card trade.

The group hopes to raise more money to do another buyback soon, as early as next weekend.