Originally created 07/30/00

Residents turn in 114 guns



Richmond County Sheriff's deputies collected 114 firearms Saturday as part of Augusta's first gun buyback program.

The event took place at the Weed and Seed Safe Haven in Barton Village subdivision.

Each person who turned in a gun was given a $50 gift certificate to use at Wal-Mart in return for the handgun or rifle. No one was arrested.

"We don't ask for any names," Lt. William B. Manecke said. "We don't want to know."

The Nationwide Gun Buyback Project was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Augusta Housing Authority donated $10,000 to the project, and $4,700 was provided by HUD to use in the buyback.

A wide variety of guns was accepted by deputies, including an unusual .22-caliber rifle.

"I've never seen anything like it before," Lt. Manecke said. "It has an M-16-like rifling. You could mistaken it for an M-16 if it didn't have a wood stock."

Lt. Manecke said if a gun could fire an explosive cartridge, it was accepted in trade for a gift certificate.

The firearms were checked for ammunition, recorded for model and color and placed in evidence bags. On Monday, the serial numbers will be run through a computer to determine whether any were reported stolen or used during a crime.

"If they're wanted, we'll notify the rightful owner or an investigator," Lt. Manecke said. "If there is nothing to them, we'll melt them down."

Augusta Commissioner Richard Colclough and Buddy Oldfield, director of resident services for Augusta Housing Authority, attended the project to show their support.

Michael Simmons, director of the Weed and Seed Safe Haven, said the project was a success.

"We had a great turnout," Mr. Simmons said Saturday afternoon. "There was a line early this morning before start time. It slowed down a bit, but there was a constant flow of people coming in."

An Augusta man, who wished to remain anonymous, said he returned his gun out of concern for his family.

"My roommate left the gun behind," he said. "I have a little boy now, and I didn't want it sitting around the house.

"This is a safe way to get rid of it. I won't sell it to a person who may put it back on the street and hurt someone."

Virginia Martin-Brown, a volunteer at the Weed and Seed, said it was an important event for the community.

"I think it's good to get the guns off the street," she said. "Fifty dollars is far more important to get the guns out of those kids' hands."

Mr. Simmons said he hopes the event's success will build momentum for future buybacks scheduled for Aug. 23 at Gilbert Manor and Aug. 26 at the sheriff's substation at Southgate Shopping Center.

"It bridges the gap between law enforcement and the community," he said. "These two forces are working together to prevent one child from finding a gun, or one person killing another."

Reach Albert Ross at (706) 823-3220 or ajrossjr@hotmail.com.