Residents hand over unwanted firearms in Salt Lake City takeover

Salt Lake City Police Officer Greenfield inspects a rifle surrendered as part of a voluntary firearms buyback program outside the Public Safety Building in Salt Lake City on Saturday. People who turned in guns received $50 to $100 in gift cards. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Brannon Richardson said there was relief when he gave his gun to police on Saturday; now it looks like it’s not part of the problem.

Richardson said his dad gave him a gun years ago and it stayed there. He had to figure out what to do with it as he moved from place to place. He said he was a safe owner and hadn’t had ammunition in years, but saw the buy-back program as an easy way to pass responsibility for a gun.

“I honestly think guns are for cowards,” Richardson said. “I can now say that 30 seconds ago I am no longer a gun owner.”

When Salt Lake City’s gun buy-back event began on Saturday, people lined up under a few shaded tents to donate their unwanted guns to the city, in exchange for a $50 gift card. $ or $100 at Maverik or Walmart. The line died down after about half an hour, but people still came to trade their guns for a few gallons of gas. The police did not ask any questions and did not ask for any identification.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said the purpose of the event was to raise awareness of the number of guns in Salt Lake City that don’t need to be there.

“It’s a small thing we do that could really have a huge impact on someone’s life, because a gun, a bullet can have a tragic impact on someone,” Brown said.

He said many people voluntarily bring the guns because they don’t know how to dispose of them and don’t want them themselves. He said people could bring unwanted weapons to the police station at any time to donate.

“There are guns out there that shouldn’t be on the streets,” Brown said. “It’s a good thing to take these guns off the streets, and we will continue to do so as we move forward.”

Brown shared on Twitter that four of the weapons that were returned had already been reported stolen.

He said even a legally owned gun can end up being used in conflict resolution when it shouldn’t be, which happened at least twice in Salt Lake City last week. He said he hoped the gun buy-back event and its outreach would prevent homicides.

Brown said they haven’t done anything like this since the 1990s, and the attendance shows it’s something people are looking for and could do again. To pay for the gift cards, the Police Foundation donated $5,000 and an additional $5,000 came from donations.

Brown said that in 2020 and 2021, more guns were purchased than in recent years, so he said there are likely more new gun owners right now than ‘previously. About 40% of American homes have guns, he said.

Brown said more guns on the street means there are more that aren’t stored properly and could be stolen or cause an accident.

“If you have this gun and you think you don’t need it and would like not to be responsible for it, drop it,” Brown said.

He said owning a gun is a responsibility and suggested gun owners lock and secure their guns, know how to use them properly, and not leave them in the car overnight.

Weapons that are handed over to the police station are being disposed of. Brown said they would never see the street again, which was important to several people who turned in their guns.

Is gun buying the only option?

Before reaching the tents where the police were collecting the weapons, most people passed by individuals offering to purchase the weapons for cash instead of a gift card. Some of these people were hoping to talk about the benefits of owning and carrying a gun and others were looking to get a new gun or a gun that they could sell and make a profit.

One group, Utah 2A Alliance, hoped to take the guns they had purchased, clean them and give them to teachers and school employees at a free concealed carry class for them they are holding on July 9 . The alliance is a Utah gun coalition. educational organizations and firearms companies.

Clark Aposhian said the concealed carry classes for teachers they have held over the past 10 years have drawn hundreds of people. He said Utah schools are defended and he wants the public to know that schools are not easy targets and that there are people carrying guns.

Aposhian said 19% of Utah citizens have concealed carry permits and arming people in schools is working because there have been no mass shootings in the state or accidental deaths of people concealed in schools.

Bill Pedersen, who was also at the Utah 2A Alliance tent, said he hopes to give people options and help them get a little more money than the city has to offer. But that they also try to educate them about owning firearms.

Utah 2A Alliance offered about $25 more than the police, although they said they would pay more for a more valuable gun. More people chose to donate their guns in exchange for a gift card, but the Utah 2A Alliance had purchased about 12 guns in the first hour of the event, and a few more people on the sidewalk purchased weapons from people intending to donate firearms. the police too.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers court and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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