Roanoke’s Groceries Not Guns buyback event brought in more than 150 guns

ROANOKE, Va. – Turning your guns into meals: that’s the idea behind a gun buyback event in Roanoke.

“If it’s there, then it’s at risk,” Brenda Hale, President of the Roanoke branch NAACP, said.

Lots of people lined up early Saturday morning for the 4th annual Groceries Not Guns buyback event.

It’s an effort led by the Roanoke City police, the Roanoke branch NAACP and the Roanoke Quaker meeting to get guns off the streets.

“Any unsupervised firearm that someone is not actively carrying or anything like that could be an opportunity for someone taking it ultimately. They could end up on the street,” Ronnie Hodges, supervisor for community engagement with RPD, said.

It’s a way for gun owners to safely surrender their firearms in exchange for grocery store gift cards. For each gun you surrender, you could get up to $250.

“As long as we are able to get that removed from the home and make that home safe, that’s what’s important, and ultimately saving lives,” Hale said.

Organizers said the bottom line is making a difference in the community.

”If you have a gun in the home, you are at two times higher risk of homicide and four times higher risk of suicide,” Catherine Koebel with Groceries Not Guns said.

For one couple, their guns were collecting dust, so the buyback event was an easy way to help pay for some much-needed groceries.

“$400, that’s going to help tremendously. It’s a month’s worth of groceries at least or more,” they said.

One person who surrendered a gun wanted to stay anonymous for safety reasons but said she didn’t need it anymore.

“I have previously been in an abusive relationship, and I have had people who actively threatened my life physically on more than one occasion, but now I feel like I’m in a much safer place. It felt good to surrender that, and at least now nobody can steal it out of the house and use it elsewhere,” she said.

Organizers told us they ran out of gift cards at 12:30 p.m. and collected more than 150 guns and gave out 93 gun locks.

Even though the event ended early because they ran out of gift cards, organizers said there were still people waiting in line wanting to surrender their guns. We are told those people’s contact information was taken down and they will be first in line for next year’s event.

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