CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Division of Police will hold its annual Gun Buy Back on Saturday, Oct. 19, handing out gift cards in exchange for some weapons.
The event will take place at the Third District Headquarters on Chester Avenue starting at 9 a.m.
Working handguns or semi-automatic weapons can be turned in to police in exchange for $100 or $200 gas or food gift cards, respectively, while hunting weapons and other guns can be turned in but for no incentive.
"We’re able to take in hundreds of guns over the course of years off of the streets,” Cleveland Police Public Affairs Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia said.
Cleveland police have been buying back guns each year for more than a decade, according to Ciaccia, and on average, about 150 to 175 unwanted guns are bought back each year. The program is voluntary and anonymous.
“What we ask that you do is store the weapon in the trunk of your car,” Ciaccia said. “You would pull up to the Third District on the day of the event and you’ll be guided through the cones, and then we have our range staff there, who will take the weapon out of the trunk of your car, they ensure that the weapon is operable and then they’ll ask you which kind of gift card you’d like.”
Ciaccia said there is no limit to how many guns or how much ammunition someone can bring and that the person does not have to live in the city of Cleveland.
“Mostly what we’re focusing on are handguns,” Ciaccia said. “A lot of times, the people that end up turning them in are people who’ve kind of inherited a weapon, maybe from someone passing along or handing something down, and they’re just not comfortable with it in their house.”
She said that sometimes people who aren’t comfortable owning weapons may not store them properly.
“Maybe it’s placed in a drawer or something where a young child could get a hold of it, and that can have really tragic consequences,” Ciaccia said. “A lot of times, weapons are one of the first things that are stolen in the off-chance that your house is broken into, so when weapons are stolen out of homes, then they end up on the street and used in criminal activity.”
Police noted the sponsors of the event are the Cleveland Police Foundation, ArcelorMittal, Dave’s Supermarkets, True North and Target. ArcelorMittal, Ciaccia said, is the program’s biggest supporter, contributing the largest donation and also handling the destruction of the weapons that are collected.
Mike Madar, vice president and general manager of ArcelorMittal Cleveland, said that his company is happy to be able to help take guns off the street.
“I see way too many stories on the news about children that either injure or kill themselves with guns that maybe weren’t intended for that use but they found them accidentally,” Madar said.
Madar said ArcelorMittal Cleveland has been involved in the buy back program for about 12 years and that the company contributes about $10,000 to $15,000 for incentives. However, he said, the company also has a unique ability to destroy the guns after they’re collected.
“We make steel, and we have the opportunity that when we do charge the guns into the operation, that we can completely and thoroughly destroy them at that point,” Madar said. “But the benefit is we can also make products here at the end of the process that are used for things like automobiles, appliances, construction, service center applications, things that people use on a daily basis to improve their lives.”
Police said the guns collected at buy back events go through ballistics testing before they’re brought to ArcelorMittal every few years to be destroyed. They’re melted down as part of the 11,000 or so tons of steel produced there daily, according to Madar. Madar said the company also works with other cities and organizations to do similar work.
“Really, the value there is just really taking those guns off the street, and hopefully we see less stories here, and certainly the Cleveland Division of Police have enough on their plate,” Madar said. “If we can help that cause here and take something off of their plate, all the more reason to do that.”
Police said the buy back isn’t about violating any Second Amendment rights. Rather, Ciaccia said, it’s about taking guns from people who don’t want them in order to ensure they don’t end up in the wrong hands.
“So if we could just save the life of one child or prevent injury from an accidental gunshot, then that’s really worth it,” Ciaccia said. “And in addition to that, if we can just get these guns before they end up on the street, be it if they’re stolen or even sold to the wrong person, it’s all worth it.”