In May 2022, the Sacramento Police Department held a "gas for guns" buyback event for unwanted firearms in the community. At the buyback event, people could not only turn in unwanted firearms anonymously — no questions asked — but they were also given a $50 gas gift card.
The event was supposed to last five hours, but it saw a much higher turnout than the police department expected — they gave out all their gas cards in under an hour. And even then, people still came to turn in their unwanted firearms without receiving a gift card.
"Among other reasons, community members most commonly cited a lack of experience or knowledge with firearms, lack of knowledge of the legality of the firearms, or an inability to safely store the firearms as the main reasons for participating in the exchange," the police department wrote.
The Sacramento Police Department said on Facebook that 134 people dropped off firearms, including at least one assault weapon, components of privately manufactured "ghost guns," and "multiple other illegally configured firearms."
"I truly believe violent crime prevention is a shared responsibility and today's overwhelming community participation is evidence of the success we can achieve together," said Sacramento Police Chief Kathy Lester.
That same day at a Brooklyn church, according to NPR, New York City officials said that people turned in a total of 69 weapons.
What happened in San Francisco and Brooklyn aligns with trends across the United States, where gun buyback programs have grown in popularity.
Hosted by police departments, local churches, nonprofit organizations, and even sports teams, these events are seeing unprecedented numbers of guns being donated to be decommissioned to organizations like RAWtools, which turns them into gardening tools.
The overall goal of gun buyback events is to reduce the number of firearms available in a community overall, and a lower rate of gun ownership would correlate with a lower rate of gun violence. However, it's important to note that research shows gun buyback programs are most effective at reducing gun violence when implemented along with other programs, like universal background checks, firearm registration, and more. Additionally, critics of the events say it can disproportionately target communities with a statistically higher likelihood of finding themselves in a position of needing to defend themselves with a firearm.
While an imperfect solution on their own, gun buyback events have been shown to help get illegally obtained firearms out of our communities, offer safe disposal for those who no longer want their firearm, and more.
And when implemented alongside other solutions, they have the ability to help change the disproportionately high rates of gun ownership in America.
Good Good Good is trying a new format for communicating good news, using tweets to make stories more interesting and digestible.
We collected recent tweets about gun buyback programs across the country. These tweets are a reminder that even though the United States' gun violence problem feels impossible to solve, progress is slowly and surely being made.
Looking for more good news and ways to make a difference against gun violence? You might like these articles:
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- Guide: How To Help Buffalo
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- This School Bus Art Project Might Help End Future Gun Violence
Guns are being donated to RAWtools to be decommissioned and turned into gardening tools across the United States:
Instead of selling her gun collection, one Twitter user's wife chose to have them turned into gardening tools
After she inherited as much as $30,000 worth of guns, Darren Nakamura's wife opted not to sell them. Instead, she donated them to RAWtools to be given a new life.
"She had them sawed into pieces so they can be melted down and fashioned into gardening tools," Nakamura wrote in a tweet along with a photo of a box of some of the decommissioned firearms.
RAWtools is the leading organization decommissioning firearms
Turning "swords into plowshares" — quite literally — RAWtools' mission is to “disarm hearts and forge peace” by choosing which tools we use to navigate conflict.
On their website, RAWtools says, "As we lose more than 100 people a day to gun violence in the United States, it’s becoming more and more clear that guns have no place in conflict resolution."
Through their Sword to Plow program, gun owners can donate a firearm and get a garden tool made from it for free.
RAWtools makes its garden tools available for purchase
Additionally, RAWtools makes their gardening tools available for purchase — and they sell out quickly. The funds from the sales of the garden tools go to support their work, which includes nonviolence training, bystander intervention, and other ways to help people learn "a new set of tools" to resolve conflict.
Dozens of local groups around the United States have joined the RAWtools network
RAWtools' mission is possible because of a nationwide 'Disarming Network' of volunteers trained to safely decommission firearms. With a growing and notable lack of accountability among local police departments, a valid concern with buyback events is what happens to the guns after they are turned in.
With RAWtools, the gun owner and trained volunteer meet in a safe, public location, and the guns are immediately and permanently decommissioned on-the-spot — they will never be able to fire a bullet again.
The Denver Broncos partnered with RAWtools to host a series of gun buybacks in their community
While some gun buyback events are hosted by local law enforcement, cities, churches, and more — companies and organizations that care about the safety of their communities are joining them in the effort, too.
In March 2022, the Denver Broncos hosted the first of eight planned gun buyback events, and reported 189 firearms were collected at their stadium grounds, decommissioned on the spot, and donated to RAWtools to be made into gardening tools.
More than 1000 guns have been anonymously donated during Broncos events
At their fourth buyback event with RAWtools, the Broncos collected more than 100 guns to be turned into garden tools.
Beyond Broncos events, Denver has hosted more events
In addition to the Broncos' events, a RAWtools event in Denver in July 2022 resulted in 158 guns donated to be made into garden tools.
Santa Fe has hosted similar gun buyback events with RAWtools
Also in July 2022, New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence hosted their 15th "GunsToGardens" buyback event, where they collected 166 firearms. All of the guns, including dozens of semi-automatic handguns, they said in a tweet, were dismantled on site and donated to RAWtools to be turned in to gardening tools.
Gun buyback programs aren't a new thing
New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence has hosted "GunsToGardens" gun buyback events since 2016, and have dismantled and donated over 1,000 guns total in that time. In the context of the rate of gun ownership nationwide, that might not seem like a lot — but it's 1,000 fewer guns than New Mexico had before, and that's good progress worth celebrating.
If you want to help reduce the number of guns in your community and turn more "swords into plows," host an event with RAWtools where you live.
RAWtools is seeking volunteers across the United States
Whether you're a gun owner or not, you can sign up to volunteer with RAWTools and help meet the overwhelming demand they've seen lately for people wanting to donate their guns to be made into garden tools. Especially if you're familiar with power tools, this is a great way to take action to prevent and end gun violence in your community.