Palmetto church gun buyback yields only one firearm

PALMETTO -- Only one firearm was turned in Saturday during a Palmetto church’s first gun buyback event.

But to the Rev. Bill Parker, associate pastor of the New Life General Baptist Church, the buyback was still worth the effort.

“It’s been a success because of that one gun,” Parker said. “If you get one gun off the street, that could mean eight lives” are saved.

At the church, 609 Ninth St. W., residents had the chance to turn in guns -- no questions asked -- in exchange for a $50 Visa gift card.

In preparation for the event, the church received donations, including $1,000 from Palmetto police and the Palmetto Community Redevelopment Agency, to buy as many gift cards as possible. Parker said more than 25 were purchased.

But only one man came forward with a .38-caliber pistol.

Palmetto police spokesman Lt. Scott Tyler said the man who turned in the gun told him he purchased it about six years ago.

But “he hasn’t shot it once, and his wife doesn’t like it,” Tyler said.

Parker said that if more guns are turned in, fatal shootings like the Club Elite shooting in Palmetto Sept. 10, could be avoided.

“Maybe that wouldn’t have happened,” Parker said.

Pastor McArthur Sellars and Parker said the church will organize another buyback in May or June next year.

Sellars said they will promote the event more aggressively through word of mouth, flyers and reaching out to TV and radio media.

“This is a start and we have to be persistent,” Parker said.

Parker said the gift cards will be kept at an M&I Bank.

Anyone who wants to donate for the next buyback can visit any M&I Bank in the tri-county area and deposit money in the “Manatee Weapon’s Buyback (New Life)” account.