Law enforcement in Baton Rouge (Louisiana) collected 260; Nashville boasted 260. And on Saturday, Sept. 15, a Memphis pastor and local corporate partners are hoping for an equally successful haul in an upcoming "Guns For Gas" effort.
"Too many lives have been lost because of gun violence, not just here in South Memphis, but all over this city," said the Rev. Ralph White, pastor of Bloomfield Full Gospel Baptist Church. "If we can take some of these guns off the street, especially out of the hands of our young people, I believe we'll see a decline in gun violence."
Semiautomatic pistols, revolvers, assault rifles, shotguns – all kinds of firearms – can be brought to the church parking lot at 123 S. Parkway West," said White. For each gun, a voucher will be given for a $50 gas card and two tickets to a Memphis Grizzlies game. Up to three guns may be turned in, each in exchange for a gas card.
No questions asked.
"Because our partners have been so generous, we can give $150 in gas cards for three guns," said Rev. White. "We expect that the high gas prices will be a great incentive. Also, the Grizzlies tickets will lure sports fans as well."
Whether participants arrive on foot or in a vehicle, they are asked to bring the firearms in a paper bag, some kind of box, a backpack, or gun safe. All guns should be unloaded at the time of surrender.
A special unit of the Memphis Police Department will remove guns from their packages and collect them for disposal.
Bloomfield Urban Ministries – the nonprofit, outreach arm of the church – is the program's sponsor. Similar programs in urban areas, especially across the southeast region, have experienced wide participation. Past programs in Memphis have been sponsored in the last five years.
"We expect to see an immediate decline to some degree in the number of shootings, armed robberies, and other gun violence," said Ron Kent, owner of Chow Time and China Inn Restaurants. "Our children, our families and our streets will be a little bit safer. Both my wife, Carolyn, and I felt sponsorship was important."
Officials in other cities report that hundreds of these firearms collected over the years have included everything from small-caliber pistols to military-style AK-47 assault rifles.
Mayor AC Wharton Jr., Ron Kent, The New Tri-State Defender, The Memphis Grizzlies and Mapco Stores have all joined Bloomfield as sponsors.
"Some are not hopeful that this event will effect gun violence and crime," said White. "I beg to disagree. I understand that firearms are very accessible on the street. I understand that although hundreds will turn in their guns, many more will hold on to theirs. "(If) Gas For Guns" save even one life, the effort is well worth it."