Keeping the community safe is a government's most important responsibility, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said Friday, and the county's gun safety event, which includes a gun buyback program, is "just one way" to do that.
Ulman joined Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon at the Warfield Building in Ellicott City to promote Saturday's event, which is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Dorsey Building, 9250 Bendix Road, in Columbia.
Residents can make $100 for each gun handed in, up to three guns. The payments will be made from asset forfeiture funds seized in drug investigations.
"This is just one way, it's not the entire solution, but it's one solution among many to make sure that we are the safest community possible," Ulman said.
The county last hosted a buyback program in 1995, which resulted in three guns being turned in. In 1994, the county collected 15 guns through a buyback program, according to police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn.
Everyone who attends and still has a firearm at home will receive a free gun lock, whether or not they have turned in a weapon. The locks are being provided by the Howard County Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes programs to improve public safety.
Mati Chareonvaravut, a cousin of a victim of accidental gun violence, said the gun safety day is a step in the right direction for all Howard County residents.
His cousin, 13-year-old Ellicott City resident Tanun "Byrd" Wichainaraphong, was killed in an accidental shooting in 2000. While Byrd was playing video games, a 15-year-old was showing off his uncle's .22-caliber rifle and accidentally fired a bullet that struck Byrd in the head.
"We will always wonder, 'what if that uncle had just kept a properly secured gun with an operable trigger lock,'" Chareonvaravut said.
According to Llewellyn, the county has seen four homicides by gun and 16 suicides by gun since 2010.
McMahon and Ulman said they have no expectations concerning Saturday's turnout.
"This is just an opportunity to really focus on it for a day and make that function that we're willing to do every single day more public," McMahon said.
McMahon said it's not uncommon for the county to field calls from residents unsure of what to do with unwanted guns in their home.
The police department always accepts unwanted guns, but residents will not be paid for them outside of the gun safety event Saturday, he said.
Depending on the turnout, the county might host another buyback event, Ulman said.