A woman taking part in Zachary’s first Gas for Guns program Saturday was a bit nervous as she drove to the Zachary Community Center with two handguns tucked away in a shoebox.
Concern over the safety of her children led the woman to turn in the two guns for gas money.
Area law enforcement agencies, community organizations and churches worked together to remove guns from Zachary streets during the community’s first Gas for Guns event.
The program included Baton Rouge Police and its Firearms Training unit, Zachary Police, East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office and its Firearms Training unit, District Attorney Hillar Moore and personnel from his office, the Zachary Men’s Club, which hosted the event, and New Pilgrim Baptist Church.
Zachary Police Chief David McDavid believes the program is a good one.
“Our main concern is getting guns off the street and preventing accidents from happening in citizens’ homes,” McDavid said. “It’s also a way to unite law enforcement agencies for something positive.”
“We took part in the effort because we’re concerned with removing weapons from city streets, especially in problem areas like the Avenues,” said Deacon Bill Johnson, of New Pilgrim Baptist Church. “Through events like these, we’re looking to correct problems and help better our neighborhoods.”
Johnson said Saturday’s event, however, was not the first crime prevention effort for the church. The weekend before, a community picnic was held for young men to come out and discuss any issues or problems they may be facing. Johnson, the Rev. Errol Domingue, pastor of New Pilgrim, and others were on hand to listen.
Maj. Anthony Ponton, of the EBR Sheriff’s Office, said the Gas for Guns buyback program is not new to Baton Rouge.
“Zachary Police contacted us, and we were happy to partner with them,” said Ponton. “These events are always successful, even if we collect just one gun. It’s one that won’t harm or kill anyone needlessly.”
Ponton said some of the guns turned in are stolen, some are from grandparents raising grandchildren who hope to avoid an accident or worse, and other firearms collected are from residents afraid of having their homes burglarized and guns stolen that later may be used to commit a crime.
“We have widows whose husbands have died and they now want the firearms removed from the home,” Ponton said. “There are lots of reasons why people turn in guns.”
Once the guns are collected, they are processed by trained handlers such as Baton Rouge Police Cpl. Charles Robinson and EBR Sheriff’s Office Lt. Roy Paxton, both of their respective agencies’ firearms training units.
Ammunition is removed if the firearms contain any, the guns cleaned and then placed in a container to be destroyed, McDavid explained.
Saturday’s event, like other Gas for Guns programs, asks no questions and requires no identification from anyone turning in guns.
“Motorists can simply drive up, hand them through the window to an officer and wait for their fuel card in return,” McDavid said.
Gas cards sponsored by Circle K ranged from $50 to $300.
Ponton said the first person to turn in weapons on Saturday was a male who exchanged five guns for gas.
“The gas is an incentive, sure, but most who turn in firearms are doing so because they want to help their communities and their homes stay safe,” Ponton said.
Zachary’s Gas for Guns event yielded about 12 firearms, including two shotguns.