Rather than seizing guns from a weapons trafficking raid or a major bust, Prince George’s County police collected more than 200 guns Saturday from area residents who willingly handed them over no questions asked.
The “Gift Cards for Guns” program at the First Baptist Church of Highland Park in Landover was a first-time program for the police department to reduce the number of weapons in county neighborhoods, said Cpl. Clinton Copeland, a county police spokesman, who said the department is pleased with the result.
Sgt. Sonya Rorls, a county police spokeswoman, said police were accepting any type of firearm and in any condition, whether functional or nonfunctional throughout Saturday afternoon.
Residents had the ability to turn in weapons anonymously and receive a VISA gift card of up to $100 in return. Funding and support for the program came from Partnership for Renewal In Southern and Central Maryland, a nonprofit faith-based organization, the Prince George’s County chapter of the NAACP and Prince George’s County’s Youth Strategies and Programs Division, a county government division that provides outreach and services to area organizations.
“It was phenomenal. To get one gun off the street can help save lives, and we collected 200 in one day,” said Terrence Stafford, a community developer in the Youth Strategies and Programs Division who helped create Gift Cards for Guns.
Stafford said gift cards were offered instead of cash because the police department was not actually buying the guns from residents since all the weapons collected will be destroyed. He said residents brought anything from a small pistol to a sawed-off shotgun to receive gift cards.
“I’m almost positive that based on the initial event we’re going to have to do this again,” he said.
Copeland said another Gift Cards for Guns event may be held in the future to seek similar results, but nothing is yet scheduled.