PG police buy back guns with special urgency this weekend

Prince George\'s County Police officers inspect rifles to make sure serial numbers match up correctly during the Gift Cards for Guns event at St. Mark\'s United Methodist Church in Laurel Saturda.(WTOP/Ari Ashe)

Ari Ashe,

LAUREL, MD – The Connecticut shooting that left 20 children dead in an elementary school prompted some area gunowners to exchange their guns for gift cards at a Prince George’s County event Saturday.

Prince George’s County Police held its third gun exchange of the year Saturday to keep unwanted or stolen guns from ending up on the county’s streets. The first two events, held earlier this year in Landover and Oxon Hill, netted more than 300 guns.

Police said they would not know until Saturday evening or Sunday how many guns were turned in. A similar event in Baltimore collected more than 400 guns.

“The way we look at it, if we get one weapon off the street it’s positive,” says Major Ray Gordon. “Just as long as people are willing to turn in guns, we are willing to take them. No questions asked.”

The gift cards range from $25 to $100, with the higher value cards exchanged for assault rifles, automatic and semi-automatic pistols.

“I am born and raised in D.C. and I see gun violence all the time. I know guns are nothing but trouble,” says Woodrow Rucker, who drove from the District to turn in a handgun.

Rucker called the event “a good cause.” He received a $25 gift card and intends to give it to his daughter for Christmas.

Anthony Smith and his girlfriend came from Hyattsville.

“She had an old handgun from a relative that was just sitting around not being used,” says Smith. “It’s better to give it to police, rather than pass it to another relative or discard it. Plus, it helps with Christmas.”

Police hope that getting these guns off the street will help bring down crime.

“Overall crime is down in Prince George’s, and this is just one way to get that done,” Gordon says.

Several people who showed up said that the Friday shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., factored in their decision to turn in their guns.

“I’m a hunter and a sportsman, but that did affect me when I heard that on Friday. I got all shook up,” says Murnis Banner of College Park.

Banner fought back tears when he discussed the tragedy and how it convinced him to trade in the gun he hadn’t used in a few years.

And he wasn’t alone.

“Since the killing of innocent kids, that can’t be justified in no way shape or form. So for me it’s safety and you get a little something for turning the guns in,” says Joel Moore from Cheverly.

Moore turned in two guns and received a $100 Visa gift card.

“Anybody could use that. I’ll use it for clothes, a little food, whatever my household needs.”

So what happens to the guns?

“If the weapon is stolen, we return it to the rightful owner. If it’s not stolen, we have it melted down and destroyed,” Gordon says.

The Prince George’s County Police partnered with the NAACP and the Prince George’s County Youth Strategies Division to hold the event.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow @AriAsheWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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