Buyback Program Takes Guns Out of CirculationSep 29, 2020 11:56AM ● By Sean Sullivan
Natick residents, organizations and police partnered last month to take unwanted and idle guns out of circulation. The effort was a small victory amid a sea of firearms that have been sold nationally this spring and summer.
On Saturday morning, September 12th, gun owners began pulling into the Presbyterian Church parking lot on Hartford Street in Natick, adhering to safety protocols put in place beforehand. A table set with the obligatory coffee and donuts was the centerpiece of several event tents set up for shade.
Cars stopped at the shelter where officers from the Natick Police and Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office were stationed, representatives from the two departments ready to receive the surrendered firearms.
Officers removed a long gun from the trunk of one car, inserting its barrel into a tall box designed to contain the discharge should the gun accidentally go off. In this safer state, the police determine whether the gun is loaded, and remove any ammunition if present.
Those participating in the gun buyback program were instructed beforehand to empty all firearms of ammunition prior to placing and locking them in the trunk, but the blast box is an additional layer of precaution aimed at ensuring the safety of everyone present.
After the serial numbers of the firearms have been checked, they are later destroyed by the Sheriff’s Office.
No questions are asked of those surrendering their firearms at gun buyback events like these, and participants are assured of anonymity.
A most tumultuous 2020 has brought the subject of firearms, among many other issues, back into the forefront of public consciousness and debate. Recent and high-profile shootings related to protests in other states have turned the conversation toward gun safety.
And with so many separated from friends and family during the Covid19 shutdown and sequestering, the prospect of gun-related suicide becomes a more salient concern. The related economic downturn and joblessness is seen as an exacerbating factor as well.
It’s widely believed that United States citizens fear tighter firearm restrictions in the aftermath of mass shootings, resulting in reliable spikes in American gun sales following these recurring events. This summer, the pandemic and social unrest is seen as the catalyst for a record-setting, seasonal boom in gun sales. Horrific headlines are often great for business if you’re selling firearms.
These spring and summer pandemic months have seen a surge in indicators related to gun sales nationally. While definitive numbers of American firearm sales are hard to come by, the FBI reported conducting 3.9 million background checks in June of this year. 2020 has seen the highest 7 of the top 10 weeks ever for background checks, four of those weeks this June. Such record keeping started in 1998.
Natick’s Erica Ball helped to plan and organize the town’s buyback program held last month. She conversed with her husband and other volunteers - all masked - on that mild Saturday morning, making small talk and discussing the political and societal events of the past few months.
“It’s a very difficult climate,” said Ball. “There are lots of reasons why guns in the home can present a danger.”
After police took possession of participants’ firearms, the former owners would drive around from there to the volunteer tent, where they were given the appropriate gift cards.
In exchange for the unwanted weapons, owners received cards from various businesses. BB (pellet) guns, for example, earned a $10.00 gift card from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shops. Gunpowder-powered long guns and handguns went for $50.00 and $100.00 each respectively, in the form of gift cards from Amazon, Lowes, Target and Stop & Shop.
The effort was funded by a grant from the Metrowest Health Foundation, and unclaimed gift cards were donated to A Place to Turn, the Natick Service Council, and Natick Promise Metrowest.
Organizers of such buyback programs try to alternate host towns to avoid them competing with one another. Natick last hosted one in 2017, and saw 100 firearms collected that year. This year, the program collected 59 firearms, giving out $6000.00 in gift cards.
Richard Sidney was at the Natick event last month, and played a part in bringing it to Natick this year. He is a member of Citizens for a Safer Natick, a volunteer group that he co-founded, partly as a response to a mass shooting half a country away. Miami Florida’s Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016 motivated Sidney to get involved.
“It was the start of a lot of the activity for me,” he said.