Leroy Young turned two unwanted guns into a tank of gas Saturday as he took part in the third annual Gun Buyback Day at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.
The Augusta resident was among the first dozen to show up to the event, carrying a shoe box under his arm. Inside were two handguns – a .22-caliber and a .32-caliber – that belonged to his late wife and mother-in-law.
Now that he lives in a nicer part of town, Young said, he felt no need to hang on to the guns, especially with his grandchildren darting in and out of the room where they were stored. Besides, he could use extra cash since his car gets just 12 miles to the gallon.
“I have a guzzler out there and it eats that stuff up,” he said, and he feels better knowing the guns would be off the street for good.
Despite the constant rain, Saturday’s event, held by the nonprofit group Future Successors, was its most successful yet.
Just 30 minutes in, coordinator Niki Watson had just five gift cards left to exchange for guns. She began with 26, valued at $1,600.
About 15 minutes later, the cards were all gone.
“I would say that we’re seeing a more diverse crowd,” she said. “It’s still an older crowd. It’s not as young as I’m trying to target, but we’ll get there.”
Watson, an Augusta native living in New York, started the event after noticing a spike of violent crimes involving younger people.
This year’s event brought in 44 firearms, four more than last year and double the take at the first event.
Once the unloaded guns were found to be in working condition, donors were given Visa gift cards valued between $50 and $70. When the cards ran out, Watson broke out her checkbook and spent an additional $500 to collect the rest.
Richmond County sheriff’s deputies were on hand to run serial numbers to check whether the guns had been stolen.
Five of the guns were turned over to the sheriff’s office because the numbers had been filed off. The other 39 will be sent to Atlanta to be destroyed.
Dany Menard, an Atlanta firefighter and gun owner who volunteered at the event, said it is a great way to make sure guns stay
in the right hands. He said he doesn’t think gun owners should feel threatened by the event.
“We’re not opposed to anyone’s Second Amendment rights because I’m a firm believer in my Second Amendment rights,” he said. “But I strongly believe that each gun should be in the hands of responsible parties. If the guns are not in the hands of a responsible person, that’s when you have issues like gun violence and misuse.”