Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones may never have been more thankful to see guns than he was Saturday in the parking lot of the MLK Center.
He was there for a gun buyback, an effort to get people to turn in unwanted guns — weapons that could be stolen in burglaries or fall into the wrong hands through some other means. Gainesville has been trying to cope with an increase in gunfire and with guns being stolen.
“Some of those guns could do carnage,” Jones said. “We know we have semi-automatic weapons on the street, so nothing I see today is a surprise. What I do see today is citizens helping us out.”
The buyback, held in collaboration with the Alachua County Christian Pastors Association and the Eighth Circuit State Attorney’s Office, started at 10 a.m. State Attorney’s Office investigator and spokesman Darry Lloyd said vehicles were waiting beforehand.
Sellers formed a double line of cars, pickups and SUVs. They stayed inside the vehicles while officers took the guns. An appraisal was done and the sellers were given between $50 and $300.
Lloyd said the money was from a crime forfeiture fund and by the end of the event 134 guns had been collected.
“We’ve had some donations — people didn’t want anything for them. Folks are looking for a resource to get rid of firearms they don’t want,” Lloyd said. “I’m pleased with this kind of response. We’re getting a lot of long guns.”
Some of those long guns were semi-automatic, AR-15 style weapons like those used in several of the mass killings that have happened in the U.S. for decades. Officers said last weekend’s killings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, may have spurred more people to get rid of unwanted guns Saturday.
Gainesville members of Moms Demand Action, a national gun safety group founded after the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, had a tent with information and free gun locks.
“We felt it was appropriate to talk about guns in America. Considering the shootings recently, we are trying to let people know that we are here,” said Dr. Melanie Hagen. “We’re here for gun safety and to advocate for tougher laws to protect people.”
Set up across the street from the buyback were a few people offering to buy guns at a higher price than what the city might pay.
Among them was Chris Rose of Waldo.
“We are the real buyers. We’ll give you a little more, depending on what it is because we all have our wish list. We’re asking for the right of first refusal before it goes in there and gets destroyed,” Rose said. “I haven’t found anything that I wanted yet, but I’m pretty picky. There were four or five more of us, and they cleaned out everything they brought with them cash-wise.”
Gun sales between individuals in Florida are legal, and background checks are not required.