Hundreds of people lined up outside First Baptist Church of Glenarden (FBCG) in Landover Dec. 21 to exchange lethal instruments for spendable ones.

It was latest drive to persuade local residents to turn in guns—any guns, no questions asked– in exchange for an American Express gift card.

Shotguns and Rifles turned in were worth $50, handguns were worth $100 and automatics and semi-automatics worth $150.

Major Robert Liberati, commander of the Prince George’s County Police Department for the Forensic Science Division told the AFRO “The guns that we are receiving are being turned in totally anonymously. We do not take any names, addresses, or anything like that. Our object here is to take the guns off the street.”

Once the guns were surrendered and the actions were cleared outside the entrance of the church, the owners of the guns were then escorted to a room by a police officer, while the officers carried the guns for the owners.

Once inside the room, gun owners were then given a colored ticket based on the type of gun they possessed. They then traded in their ticket in a gift card. Within an hour after the event started, all the gifts cards –totaling $10,000–were gone.

With the funds exhausted, police officers were on the verge of telling the waiting gun owners to go home. Rev. John K. Jenkins, First Baptist senior pastor, added $3,000 in gift cards to keep the event going.

“We are trying to get guns out of homes and off the streets,” Jenkins told the AFRO. “Guns don’t hurt people. People hurt people using guns. Our desire is to get as many guns off the street as possible, in attempt to lower crime and injury to people. Sometimes people use guns in anger, depression, and suicide. Kids use them to threaten people. …We’re just trying to decrease the pain inflicted on many families because of guns.”

After owners received gift cards, they were then encouraged to attend a briefing staged nearby by Prince George’s Hospital Center on gunshot wounds.

Dr. R. Sean Benoit told the AFRO, “We see a lot of victims from gunshot wounds. We see over 200 gunshot wound patients a year. So, this event represents an opportunity for us to get to the patients before they get to us. To do some injury prevention and to partner with the police department, this church and the county to see if we can decrease the amount of weapons that is on the streets.”

Many people turned in guns that have been lying around their houses that they have been waiting to discard.

Jeanette Montgomery had guns that her father left behind after he passed 12 years ago.

Don Bee had a shotgun that he said he never used and was just lying in his closet.

“Guns have a life,” Liberati said. “Could be a hundred years. These guns get traded over and over again. People didn’t feel comfortable with them in their homes and they are bringing them in here. They get rewarded with a little extra cash to do a little holiday shopping.

Courtney Jacobs

AFRO Staff Writer