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Baltimore buyback takes in 461 guns in wake of Conn. shooting

ShootingsShopRiteBaltimore Police DepartmentBernard C. Young

With the violent attack on a Connecticut elementary school weighing on many minds, hundreds of people turned in 461 guns to Baltimore police at a buyback Saturday.

Sonia White, a 65-year-old Baltimore County grandmother, was turning in her husband's old corrections department service revolver.

"After the incident yesterday, it was time to get it out of the house," she said, adding that she cried when she went to pick her grandchildren Friday, realizing that a similar attack could have happened anywhere.

The event, which was funded by Klein's ShopRite supermarkets, had been scheduled long before the attack as a violence prevention initiative. But like White, many people turning out to trade in their guns for a $100 gift card to the stores said the school shooting was their reason for showing up.

"It's a poignant reminder of what can happen when you have guns in the home and what we don't want to happen in our communities," said Howard Klein, a vice president at ShopRite.

Many described having had a gun around the home for years and realizing yesterday that someone could use it to hurt their children or grandchildren.

"That really motivated me to come out," said Gary Barksdale, 30, who was dropping off two rifles with his father.

Shortly after noon, people were lined up down the block by St. Paul Baptist Church in the city's Coldstream Homestead Montebello neighborhood, many clutching old shotguns and rifles wrapped in towels or trash bags. Michael Sameth, 26, had his father's three revolvers in a plastic bucket.

Other people were just looking to get some extra money to buy food around the holidays. One woman said she would give the gift card to a friend who just lost her food stamp benefits.

The supermarket group got the buyback idea from one of its partners who had run similar events in Philadelphia and held a golf tournament to raise money to pay for the gift cards. The company secured the backing of Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young and the Baltimore Police Department, which will cart away the guns and melt them down.

Young said that the event was going well and that he hopes getting the guns off the streets will cut down on violent crime in the city.

"Because of what happened yesterday, we've got more people coming in," he added.

The total number of guns collected Saturday compares well with other similar efforts, although many of the weapons turned in around midday appeared to be shotguns and rifles, rarely used to shoot people in Baltimore.

Police said recently that they had recovered 2,000 guns during arrests this year. A city sponsored buyback in 2005 recovered just over 1,700 weapons in a week, and a one-day church-run program in 2010 brought in 42.

iduncan@baltsun.com

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