ROANOKE, Va. – Virginia’s first gun buyback event in Roanoke, called Groceries Not Guns, shut down early on Saturday for exceeding expectations.
Starting promptly at 11 a.m., a line of Roanoke residents waited with boxes to turn in their guns. Stephen Clements said he didn’t need his shotgun and rifle anymore and said this was the best option to get rid of them.
“I think it’s just people like me. They have guns in their house. They don’t need a gun in the house, they want to get rid of a gun. It’s a hassle to take them to a gun show, so this just gets rid of them quickly.”
The event allowed people to turn in their guns to authorities in exchange for a grocery gift card. Semi-automatic handguns were exchanged for gift cards worth $250, while all others were exchanged for $150.
In about an hour, all gift cards were handed out, totaling more than $14,000.
Deputy Chief Chester Smith said IOUs were handed out to people so they can be first in line at the next gun buyback event.
“Big turnout,” Smith said. “We had to turn folks away because we ran out of vouchers, but they gave out some IOUs for people who did not get vouchers today.”
But Virginia State Conference NAACP Executive Director Da’Quan Love said some people turned down the incentive altogether.
“There were folks lined up around the corner that still said, ‘I just want to get rid of the gun.’” Love said. “And you know what that says, one, gun buyback programs work. When we offer opportunities to get guns off our streets, it helps us to curb gun violence and reduces the chance of those crazy type of incidents that can happen at homes.”
Overall, 91 guns were collected ranging from revolvers to shotguns to semi-automatic pistols. All partners say the event “exceeded their expectations.”
Groceries Not Guns event coordinator Catherine Stromberg said with Roanoke kickstarting this event, she hopes it’ll be a model for others.
“I just think that sends a great beacon of hope to people, that this problem is not interminable. We can chip away at this problem. And, we can start to see a different direction to this problem. And I hope today is a part of the start of that different direction,” she said.