One of the goals of the Ceasefire Oregon Education Foundation is to sponsor gun turn-ins, where members of the public can bring unwanted firearms to be disposed of voluntarily, no questions asked, and redeem the guns for $50 gift certificates to Fred Meyer grocery and department store. These are gun owners who, for whatever reason, no longer feel safe having a gun in their home. Older people who can no longer safely use their weapons, or whose spouses died and they don't feel comfortable using them. People who have family members who are depressed or violent. New parents with children. People with guns that are no longer in good shape. Or simply people who need that little bit of cash to get by. Whatever the case, they can hand over their guns for gift certificates and the police department will take possession of the guns and destroy them, all without adding to the flood of weapons in our community.
Last weekend was the second gun turn-in this year in Portland, with forty guns handed over (We collected 13 rifles, 6 shotguns, 21 handguns, 3 pellet guns, and some ammo). We were happy to have cooperation and funding from the city (Thank you, Mayor Adams!) and the Portland Police Department. Combined with the last two turn-ins in December 2010 and April 2011, that comes to over 400 guns. Over the last 16 years of gun turn-ins, 7,564 firearms have been removed from our streets and homes!
HERE is a link to an article in the Oregonian newspaper on this week's turn-in event.
One of the patrons at this week's event, Ken Pyburn, turned in a couple .22's to pay for his Thanksgiving turkey. From the article:
The Portland resident also is not opposed to guns. Rather, as far as he's concerned, the .22-caliber handgun and a .22 rifle he donated are too small to be of much use.
"I'm an old Army guy, a military policeman," he said. "Believe me, I know what it takes in a self-defense situation."
But Pyburn has no use for the powerful National Rifle Association and its anti-gun control agenda. "I'm not anti-gun, but I am anti-NRA," he said. "There's no practical way to keep guns off the street without a national registration system."
(It's interesting to note that on the same page where this article was printed in the Oregonian were news briefs on shootings that had taken place the day before: a deadly hunting accident (where a man mistook a hiker for a bear), a gang shooting, a bus stop shooting, and a suicide by gun. There were a total of three gang shootings this past weekend in Portland. A few days before, there was also a man with a conceal carry permit brandishing a gun against protestors at the Occupy Portland gathering.)
Of course, like all the gun turn-ins, there are the pro-gun extremists who turn out at the entrance to the event to hassle anyone who attends, hollering at people who come to turn in their guns, offering to pay big money for their weapons. Some convince the patrons to sell them their guns. But the real reason the extremists are there, of course, is just to protest our attempts to remove weapons from the streets and from those who might abuse them. These are the people who want more guns for more people in more places, at any cost, and fight to remove commonsense controls. Their answer to gun violence is to add more guns to our community and oppose any measures to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, children, or the dangerously mentally ill.
Like myself and many who work to reduce gun-related violence, our organizers understand the value of removing guns from homes where they can be abused. Consider the facts:
- Higher household gun ownership correlates with higher rates of homicides, suicides, and unintentional shootings (Harvard Injury Control Center).
- Keeping a firearm in the home increases the risk of suicide by a factor of 3 to 5 and increases the risk of suicide with a firearm by a factor of 17 (Kellermann, 1992, p. 467; Wiebe, p. 771).
- Keeping a firearm in the home increases the risk of homicide by a factor of 3 (Kellermann, 1993, p. 1084).
Again from the Oregonian article:
Back at the Ceasefire Oregon collection point, organizer Liz Julee expressed a much different sentiment. The native of western Kentucky said she's lost five family members over the years to gun violence. Four uncles and cousins were shot in various disputes, domestic squabbles or hunting accidents. Her clinically depressed mother used one of the family's hunting rifles to commit suicide.
"Her name was Helen Bridges, she was 48," Julee said. "I do this work in her honor."
If you have a gun in your home that you need to discard, you don't have to wait until the next gun turn-in. Most police departments will take them, free of charge (but without giving you a gift card, of course), and most of those departments destroy those weapons.
Sources for statistics:
ew England Journal of Medicine
Annals of Emergency Medicine