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Palmetto church to buy back guns for gift cards

PALMETTO -- A Palmetto church is fighting crime one gun purchase at a time.

New Life General Baptist Church, 609 Ninth St. W., will hold its first gun buyback event from 2 to 5 p.m. Dec. 17.

“I think it’s time,” said the Rev. Bill Parker, associate pastor. “It’s time to get the guns off the street.”

Residents will be able to turn in guns at the buyback -- no questions asked -- in exchange for a gift card.

“No one gets in trouble. No one gets their picture taken,” Parker said.

Palmetto police donated $1,000 to the buyback, and the church chipped in another $300 to purchase the gift cards. But Parker said the church needs more money to buy as many gift cards as possible.

“We don’t want to have 70 or 80 people in line and only can get 30 to 40 guns” because there aren’t enough gift cards, Parker said. “We’re trying to get as many guns as we can so we want to let the community know that it’s going to happen.”

Gift cards will be limited to one per household, a media release said.

Parker, the buyback’s event coordinator, said he was motivated to organize the event because of a successful gun buyback he attended in Columbus, Ohio, more than 10 years ago. During that buyback, firearmssuch as .22-caliber handguns and machine guns were turned in.

“I just want to do something ... to get those guns out of people’s hands,” Parker said. Palmetto police officers will be at the buyback to collect the guns, which will be disposed of.

Palmetto Police Chief Rick Wells said there are always “mixed emotions” about gun buybacks because “the criminal is not going to drop them off.” But many guns used by criminals are obtained through home burglaries.

Besides guns, other weapons and prescription drugs can also be dropped off, but gift cards will only be handed out to people who turn in guns.

Wells said prescription drug abuse -- especially oxycodone -- is a “serious” problem statewide and in Manatee County. “We’re just giving the community an opportunity to drop off any prescription drugs that they no longer want or need in their house,” Wells said. “We give them an easy way to drop it off and dispose of it without any issues.”