Baptist church host for gun buy-back
Memphis is offering “gas for guns” in an effort to get weapons off the streets in one of America’s most dangerous cities.
By Bob Allen
Officials in Memphis, Tenn., will trade gasoline for guns Sept. 15 at an inner-city Baptist church with no questions asked in a program aimed at reducing the number of weapons on the street.
The mayor’s office is teaming with Bloomfield Full Gospel Baptist Church and other organizations to sponsor “Gas for Guns” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Each participant receives a $50 gas card in exchange for each gun up to a maximum of $150 for three weapons per person.
Those surrendering guns also will receive two free tickets to a preseason game of the Memphis Grizzlies, the city’s NBA professional basketball team.
“Crime, especially violent crime, is often fueled by relatively easy access to firearms,” Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton said in a press release. “Last year, 1,600 guns were reported stolen here in Memphis. Those guns didn’t just evaporate and disappear. They ended up on the street.”
Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong said the parking lot of Bloomfield Baptist Church will be a “judgment-free zone,” where no questions are asked about any firearm turned in or any persons who participate.
“In 67 percent of the aggravated assaults we’ve investigated this year, a firearm has been used to commit those crimes,” said Armstrong, a 23-year police force veteran appointed as director in April 2011. “This is an effort for us to take guns off the street.”
Forbes Magazine ranked Memphis the second most-dangerous city in America behind Detroit. The FBI reported a violent-crime rate of 1,006 per 100,000 inhabitants in a Memphis metropolitan area totaling 1.3 million in 2010.
Officials say chronic poverty plays a role. More than 19 percent of residents were below the poverty line in 2010, making Memphis the most impoverished large metro area in the country.
Gun buy-back programs are growing in popularity in high-crime areas as an option to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals, but they are not without critics. Recently in Detroit, gun advocates protested a police gun buy-back at a Catholic church by standing across the street with signs offering to pay more for firearms than was being offered by the police.
Protestors told local media that gun-buyback programs unfairly “demonize” guns, and that weapons do not cause crime.
© 2013 Associated Baptist Press, Inc.