PETERSBURG, Va. -- In a stand against gun violence that has plagued their city for years, residents and community leaders in Petersburg are coming together for a gun buyback event on Saturday.
"We have seen our share of gun violence over the years,” acknowledges Petersburg Police Chief Travis Christian.
Kenneth Bonner, a Petersburg resident, has experienced the issue firsthand.
"I had cousins been shot, and I know I've been shot at. I have a nephew been shot, two nephews that have been shot in Petersburg,” recounts Bonner.
Despite his reservations about the buyback effort's effectiveness, Bonner recognizes the importance of getting guns off the streets, hoping neighbors turn in, “as many as possible so they don't get in the wrong hands."
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The gun buyback is a joint initiative led by two local Baptist churches, Gillfield and Tabernacle, with support from the Community Transformers Foundation, a nonprofit organization that allocated $25,000 for the event.
Petersburg Police acknowledge the challenge of persuading criminals to surrender firearms, but they also stress that the initiative isn't aimed at seizing guns from law-abiding citizens.
"It's a constitutional right to bear arms, and we want people to understand we in no way are trying to violate their constitutional rights,” said Chief Christian.
That said, the chief notes every firearm taken off the streets represents one less potential threat.
"This is a safe way to bring your gun forward, receive a gift card of value, and let us get a gun off the street that could potentially do some harm to a family or loved one or kid."
Donald Barrow of the Community Transformers Foundation emphasized, "We don't have a problem with guns. We understand that people kill, not guns. However, guns in the wrong hands kill people. We want to get them out of those hands; we don't want to take your firearms."
The gun buyback program is scheduled to take place on Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to noon at Gillfield Baptist Church on Perry Street. The event offers $250 for the surrender of an assault weapon and $150 for a handgun or shotgun.
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