The event, which will be held at Antioch Baptist Church at 1454 Florence St. from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., is sponsored by Future Successors, Team Boskie and Keys Academy. People can bring their unloaded firearms in shoeboxes, which can be exchanged for gift cards ranging in value from $50 to $70.
Future Successors, a nonprofit group aimed to empower youths, will also give away gun locks.
Niki Watson, an Augusta native who organizes the event, flies in from New York every year. She said she started the event when she began to notice a spike in violent crimes involving people younger than 25. The buyback was her way of reclaiming Augusta's youths from violence, and she says her mission has been successful.
“The word is spreading,” she said. “Once you bring awareness about something going on and people are coming back to you acknowledging that, I believe the impact is there. As long as there is a dialog about something that you're against or want to decrease, you know the impact is out there.”
In its first year, the gun buyback collected 22 firearms. The second event nearly doubled that total with 40 – 30 of which were handguns. Watson had run out of gift cards – totaling $1,900 – before the event ended and broke out her checkbook. Not everyone was interested in the money, though. Some gun owners chose to donate their firearms instead of receiving payment in a show of support for the cause.
“They just wanted a gun off the streets,” she said. “Even if the gun isn't working, it’s the illusion of a gun. If they want it out of their sight that’s a great thing, and that's how you get the word out there.”
In years past, the Richmond County Sheriff's Office had taken possession of the firearms for safekeeping after they had been secured at the event. Under state law, however, seized weapons cannot be destroyed. Watson said she has hired a third-party agency to destroy the firearms.