Today’s “Goods for Guns” program had been planned weeks ago, but the massacre of 20 school children in Connecticut yesterday was on the minds of those who traded in their weapons for groceries in northeast Baltimore.
Geneva McBride was more than happy to give up an Army shotgun a neighbor had given her 20 years ago.
While the $100 ShopRite gift card she received in return for the gun would come in handy over the holidays, “why I really came here,” she said, “was ’cause of those children. I want to make sure this never got in the hands of the wrong person.”
The same motivation was expressed by many others who came to St. Paul Baptist Church, opposite City College, to exchange firearms for a ShopRite gift card in a program co-sponsored by the Baltimore City Police and Klein’s ShopRite.
In the space of four hours, 449 guns were accepted by police, no questions asked, said Major Darryl DeSousa, commander of the Northeast District.
“We got everything from derringers to long rifles,” he said. “We picked up 99mm pistols, 38 revolvers, long rifles, sawed-off shotguns, the works.”
While people participating in previous gun buybacks usually had little to say to the police, many people today wanted to talk about the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, DeSousa said.
“People got up this morning and said, ‘What can I do?’ This is what they did. They turned their guns in.
“I met a lady who came from Aberdeen. That says a lot – someone coming all the way from Aberdeen to get rid of a gun in her house.”
The number of guns surrendered today surprised DeSousa, who thought about two-thirds the number was more likely. Howard Klein said his family’s supermarket chain was also surprised by the turnout, but had plenty of gift cards on hand to meet the demand.
Even more delighted was Mark Washington. In a neighborhood that regularly sees drive-by shootings and other gun violence, the sight of firearms piling up in the entry hall of the church was deeply satisfying to the executive director of the Coldstream Homestead Montebello Community Corp.
“It’s fantastic what you see here,” Washington enthused. “This has been a wonderful concerted effort by a local business, the Baltimore Police Department and the city.”
City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Councilmen Warren Branch, Nick Mosby and Brandon Scott mixed among the crowd of mostly middle aged and elderly residents.