Miami police traded gift cards for guns in Model City on Saturday, as part of an effort to get assault rifles and other guns off the streets following the Newtown, Conn., shooting.
Collectively, officers doled out more than $2,000 in gift cards to Winn-Dixie and Walmart, as well as Miami Heat tickets, police said. The program netted 129 guns in four hours, and police say each gun collected represents the possibility of saving someone’s life.
“We've had a lot of rifles, a lot of hunting rifles, wood scopes, but these are high-powered rifles that can actually have a range of 500 yards and can kill a person from 500 yards away,” said Miami police Sgt. Freddie Cruz. “We've had a couple of double-barrel shotguns, regular shotguns. We’re hoping to get assault rifles off the street.”
One of the participants providing a gun, Tony Johnson, said it was for a relative’s own good and the safety of the community.
"I brought a mini-mag, reason being is it belongs to my little brother, and he’s been getting in trouble off and on over the years,” Johnson said. “And I felt that was a positive thing for me to do, to keep him from either injuring someone else or injuring himself.”
Patricia Johnson said she bought a handgun 30 years ago for protection. Now, she said she feels safer without it.
“Now things are so bad, people can break into your house, they can steal the gun and use it on other people,” Johnson said. “Your grandbaby or children can get a hold of it and use it in other people's houses or they can get a hold of it, and I don't want that to happen to me ever.”
Douglas Cook, the pastor of Jordan Grove Baptist Church, which lent its parking lot for the event, said he often sees the end result of gun violence.
"I feel so bad about laying these young people to rest that's getting killed, every month," the pastor said.
Police officers assured people they would not get in trouble for weapons they’re returning, even if the weapons are linked to crimes.
"Find it in your hearts to bring these weapons. No questions asked,” Cruz said. “Let's clean up the city of Miami.”
Two more buybacks are planned from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 26 at St. John Baptist Church at 1328 NW 3rd Ave. and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 2 at San Juan Bosco Church at 1301 W. Flagler St.