ROANOKE, Va. – A new gun buyback event is encouraging people to turn in their guns to help fill up their fridges.
There, gun owners will be able to exchange their unwanted firearms for grocery store gift cards as part of the “Groceries Not Guns” initiative.
“We hear a lot of talk in the community about what are you doing, what can we do, well, we’re doing something right now,” said Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea. “We get a lot of criticism about oh, what can we do, there are things you can do, and so we think activities such as this will be big.”
Lea and other valley leaders stood side by side at the announcement to say they believe the event will be effective. Roanoke Police Chief Sam Roman said they’re all in on the partnership.
“Gun violence is the number one priority for the police department, and right now, it is a problem, a huge problem, but I have always been taught that you solve big problems one bite at a time,” Roman said. “We are just interested in partnering and making sure that a firearm does not get in the hands of a child or someone who should not have it, so on that day we won’t be asking a lot of questions.”
Police will ask for your name, but not much else. The first event is set for Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m in the parking lot of the Lawson Building off Gainsboro Road.
Roanoke NAACP President Brenda Hale said that with the event, gun owners can help their community by trading in unwanted firearms to police rather than letting them fall into the wrong hands.
“And for the naysayers, I said that we collectively, in this community, have to press down on individual hearts. We have to get them to understand that life is a valuable commodity,” Hale said.
Semi-automatic handguns will be exchanged for gift cards worth $250, while all others will be exchanged for $150. There will also be free gun locks available.
Catherine Stromberg, an outspoken advocate against gun violence, said the price point is targeted at the low-end gun re-sale market. She added that re-sale markets are typically where guns used in crimes are purchased. So, the gun buyback event strives to dry up the cheap market.
“We do have direct data that if we raise the price of guns in the secondary market, the cheapest guns are the most dangerous guns. The cheapest guns are the guns most likely to be used in violence,” Stromberg said.
This is Roanoke’s first gun buyback program and possibly one of the first in the state due to recent changes by the General Assembly that makes an event like this possible.
And as an uptick in teen gun violence continues in Roanoke, the valley’s youth are stepping to the table.
“I would like to see people my age not getting killed, not killing people and not having guns surrounding them. It takes a village, and I feel like this will help a lot of our youth and even our adults,” NAACP Youth Council member Remi Davis said.