DETROIT (CNS) — An gun buyback programme conducted by the Detroit Police Department at a westside Detroit Catholic parish netted 365 guns.
Among the weapons turned in at St Cecilia Church on August 30 were at least six assault weapons and a handful of sawed-off shotguns.
The total paid for the guns was US$16,820, which came from funds contributed by Catholics in both city and suburban parishes. People selling handguns at the buyback got $50. Those who sold long guns and nonoperational weapons got $25, and those who sold assault weapons got $100. All payments were made onsite and in cash.
No questions were asked of those who volunteered to sell their guns.
“Many households in our city are going to feel considerably safer tonight because of the weapons people from the community chose to turn in,” said Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Donald F. Hanchon, who oversees Detroit parishes in the archdiocese and who spearheaded their involvement in the buyback.
Bishop Hanchon lauded city and police officials for their efforts — Detroit Mayor Dave Bing came to the buyback — and noted the “enthusiastic participation, not only from those who turned in their guns but also from the volunteers”.
Police were to test the sold firearms to determine if any were used in a connection with a crime. If not, police will destroy the weapons.
In addition to the gun buyback, the police’s commercial auto theft prevention unit etched vehicle identification numbers into the windows of dozens of vehicles to help deter auto theft.
St Cecilia’s has long had a reputation of hosting innovative initiatives to better city life, dating back to summer and midnight basketball leagues after the 1967 riot in the city. In 2009 it recognised the four Sundays of Advent as “Thug Sundays” to counter the hopelessness and frustration found in the inner city.
This is at least the fourth time St Cecilia’s has hosted a gun buyback in recent years. Fr Theodore Parker, the pastor, told Catholic News Service in a 2011 interview that the 400 members of the parish have targeted street violence by pitching in their own money, working with police and hosting three gun buyback programs in recent years.
Most of the guns they bought back “for a very low price of $20”, came from the area, which he described as “poor, mostly African-American, not many businesses”. Fr Parker said the buybacks are “letting people be freed from their worry and freed from the consequences of what could happen to them”.
Gun ownership is also a question of morality, said Fr Parker: “One has to be very careful and you have to search your conscience as to why you need it.”