CT parents organize statewide gun buyback and gun safe giveaway
NEWTOWN — Six local police departments across the state will host the first annual statewide gun buyback and gun safe giveaway day on Oct. 16, according to event organizers.
The event, sponsored by several area gun control advocacy groups, hospitals and police departments, encourages residents to exchange operable guns for gift cards up to $200. Biometric gun safes will also be distributed while supplies last.
Four police departments across the state — Guilford, Hartford, Newtown and Waterbury — will accept guns anonymously, with no questions asked, and no identification required between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. In Norwalk, police are requiring identification when guns are turned in. Stamford agreed on Wednesday to participate in the program.
Organizers aimed to get big cities across the state on board, but budgeting issues for the buyback program became a problem for some. New Haven and New London couldn’t find the funds this year.
Next year, Kristin Song, of the Ethan Miller Song Foundation, said organizers hope to approach local precincts during budget discussions to see if they’ll add a buyback event in. If they can’t get it added to the budget, Song said fundraising is an option.
By both taking guns out of circulation and offering safe storage of guns, organizers are trying to combat gun violence from all sides.
Song is the mother of 15-year-old Ethan Song, a Guilford teen who died after accidentally shooting himself in the head while playing with a gun owned by his friend’s father. In recent years, Song and her husband worked hard to pass Ethan’s Law, which closed a loophole in Connecticut laws on the safe storage of unattended firearms.
They are hoping Ethan’s Law will be passed at the federal level, too.
Song has worked with Po Murray, the co-founder and chairwoman of Newtown Action Alliance, a nonprofit formed in the aftermath of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, to pass federal legislation aimed at cracking down on gun violence.
“When we did our first buyback, it was just one of the ways I was honoring my son’s memory,” Song said.
Now, in adding the gun safe giveaway to the buyback, Song is trying to reach all audiences in the hopes that other parents, siblings and friends won’t have to suffer through the tragedy theirs did.
The goal is not to to alienate gun owners, but rather encourage them to lock their guns up so a kid doesn’t gain access.
During the event, police departments will be paired with a local nonprofit that has been affected by gun violence. In Guilford, it’s Song’s foundation. “Everyone was very, very enthusiastic about doing it,” she said.
“We’re all standing together to reduce gun violence,” Song added. “It’s the police, it’s the nonprofits, it’s the towns all kind of coming together and really trying to send out the message loud and clear.”
Getting guns out of homes
Gun buyback programs are not new in Connecticut or across the country. In fact, programs in some states date as far back as the 1960s.
Local gun buyback events have already proven successful in Connecticut in the past, and the creative process of melting the gathered guns down to create gardening tools has made national headlines in recent years.
Hartford has had a program running for the past 13 years. Bridgeport recently decided to keep their program rolling year round. Just this spring, New Haven collected
$10,000 worth of guns. In June, Norwich brought in 101 guns.
This summer, The Guardian reported that gun sales spiked during the pandemic and have continued to rise, with about one fifth of the purchases being made by first-time gun owners.
In 2016, 32 percent of U.S. households owned guns. Now, that number is nearing 40 percent.
One of the policy aims of the Newtown Action Alliance is to create a federal gun buyback program.
“There’s been some people believe that gun
buybacks don’t work and my response is: If you could save one child then that’s a home run,” Song said.
At the event, surveys led by UConn will be conducted to try to get more data on the buyback programs, according to Song.
The death statistics are clear. In 2017, nine kids and teens were killed by a gun each day. And even one child’s death can cause a ripple of pain and suffering for an entire community. Song knows firsthand.
“To me,” Song said, “it’s worth it.”