Gun owners turn out for buyback event in Roanoke

Dozens of people turned out Saturday morning for the Groceries Not Guns buyback event in Roanoke.
Dozens of people turned out Saturday morning for the Groceries Not Guns buyback event in Roanoke.(wdbj7)
Published: Aug. 21, 2021 at 7:09 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Dozens of people turned out Saturday morning to turn in guns they no longer wanted in their homes.

The ‘Groceries Not Guns’ event exchanged firearms for gift cards. The numbers exceeded organizers’ expectations and the funds they had raised to make it happen.

The line that stretched around the corner included people such as Stephen Clements, who had two guns in his home he wanted to dispose of safely.

“We had no intention of using them for anything and they were a potential item that somebody might break into our house and steal,” Clements told WDBJ7. “And we wanted to get them out of circulation.”

The project brought together several partners, including the Roanoke Branch NAACP, the Virginia Harm Reduction Coalition and the Roanoke City Police Department. Representatives of those organizations said they were pleased with the result.

“There were even folks that turned in their weapons, who didn’t even want vouchers for them, just wanted to get them out of the house,” Deputy Chief Chester Smith told reporters. “So I think it was a huge turnout, a huge success.”

“It feels good to see the community coming together and rejecting that violence, rejecting gun violence,” said Catherine Koebel Stromberg, who wrote the grant application for the Virginia Harm Reduction Coalition.

One person who opposed the gun buyback attended the event. He said he wanted to hear what people in line had to say and to offer his own perspective.

“It’s going to be politicized and I wanted people to understand that. That, really, they are being used as political pawns instead of actually making a difference in their community.”

But representatives of the organizations behind the event defended the effort.

“That is one less gun that is in someone’s attic. That is one less gun that is in someone’s closet,” said Virginia State Conference NAACP Executive Director Da’Quan Love. “That is one less gun that could be potentially used to hurt or harm any one of our own family members.”

Within an hour and a half, the ‘Groceries Not Guns’ event exchanged over 90 firearms for more than $14,000 worth of gift cards.

The organizations that coordinated the event said they hope to do it again.

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