The Austin Police Department hosted its first free gun surrender event on Tuesday, allowing community members to dispose of their guns safely without any questions or paperwork.
The event was held at the Robert T. Martinez Central East Substation and will occur four times a year at the same location to make it convenient for citizens, APD Lieutenant Gizette Gaslin said. Gaslin said APD hopes the gun surrender program will help decrease crime.
“We saw an uptick in violent crime … We realize a lot of this crime involves weapons, and so we want to be part of the solution,” Gaslin said. “I was concerned for the community and us. We want to make sure to get unwanted guns off the streets, so people who have guns sitting in their home that they don’t want anymore, or they got them as an inheritance, could have us dispose of the guns for free for them.”
Citizens could unload their guns and leave both the firearm and ammunition in the trunk or back seat of their car, come inside without the weapon and have an officer retrieve the gun. Individuals could also walk in with a discharged gun and ammunition in separate bags.
“I’m turning in my gun because it is old and no longer functional,” said event attendee Robert Stephens. “(This event) was the most convenient way to dispose of it, and I couldn’t think of a better way than coming down here.”
After APD collected the guns, officers secured a zip tie around the trigger to ensure safety. The firearms and ammunition will have their serial numbers scanned to determine if they were stolen and, if necessary, returned to the owner. If the items were not stolen, both the ammunition and gun will be shredded, said Dana Kadavy, the executive director of the APD Forensic Science Bureau.
The gun surrender event is not a buyback, and citizens will receive no compensation for returned guns, Kadavy said. Although there was a “Guns 4 Groceries” program in 2012 that people to trade their guns for grocery store gift cards, this event and future events are drop-off only.
If community members cannot attend any of the gun surrender events, they can call 311 any day of the year and an officer will be dispatched to their home, Kadavy said. Individuals calling 311 will also have to unload their firearms and store them in separate bags or boxes before an officer picks them up.
APD also offered free gun locks, police stress balls, cup holders and a drawstring bag to those who attended the event, Gaslin said.
The next gun surrender event will occur on April 28, according to the City of Austin website.
“If you have something you don’t want in your home and you feel unsafe or just don’t need it anymore, we are offering a safe way to dispose of it,” Kadavy said.