Gift cards for guns: Prince George’s Co. police, churches aim to get rid of unwanted weapons

Car after car rolled up to the First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Largo, Maryland, usually with a gun, sometimes more than one. They’d calmly walk inside and then zip right out with a stack of gift cards. In a lot of cases they were in and out in about a minute.

On Saturday, that was a good thing.

The bevy of officers stationed outside the church were helping out with a Gift Cards For Guns event. The department teamed up with the First Baptist Church of Glenarden and Zion Church to hand out gift cards worth as much as $175 to people getting rid of guns they no longer wanted for any reason.

“Safety” is one reason, said Cpt. Cindy Thompson with Prince George’s County police. “They don’t feel comfortable with them in the house. They’re heirlooms from relatives who are either no longer living or are unable to properly handle the weapon. That’s what we mostly see.”

When participants arrived at the church they were greeted by an officer who took control of the weapon. From there, other officers would inspect it and then the gun and its owner would walk inside the church.

Then the officer would take the gun down a hallway where they were being collected to be melted down. The owner would turn the other direction and walk into a room where church members were waiting for the gift cards.

Participants walked out with envelopes holding Visa prepaid cards that had already been activated.

People who turned in guns were able to do so anonymously, though church members recognized some of them.


One man WTOP spoke with brought in a .380 semiautomatic he didn’t want around the house anymore.

“It’s old, it doesn’t work. I bought it over 30 years ago,” he said. “It sits in the house for no reason, so I figured might as well get some gift cards for it.”

James Marshall, executive pastor of Zion Church, said getting the unwanted firearms off the streets is one of the best ways to keep the community safe.

“Once the unwanted firearms get in the hands of people who may be participating in dubious activity, it makes an unsafe neighborhood for our community,” Marshall said.

“There’s a huge community benefit when their unwanted firearms are in the hands of individuals who can dispose of them in safe ways.”

In years past, the program has collected as many as 300 guns per event.

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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