In an effort to fight back against gun violence, a West Baltimore church partnered with the Baltimore Police Department for a program to urge residents to turn in their guns for cash.
About 60 people showed up at Empowerment Temple church Aug. 6 for the gun buy back. People stood in line before the 4 p.m. event started, waiting to exchange their firearms for cash, no questions asked. The program was part of the church’s Baltimore Lives campaign. Baltimore Lives was created by the Rev. Jamal Bryant, pastor of Empowerment Temple.
The gun buyback took place as police continue to grapple with a spike in violence that has left 141 people dead on Baltimore streets so far this year. At the same time last year, 127 had been murdered.
This year police have investigated several killings with women victims, an unusual trend, officers said. Some of the violence has been attributed to the Black Guerilla Family, whose commander, Tavon White, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy the same day the event took place.
“Now is the time for everyone to do their civic duty,” Bryant said in a statement. “For us to start reporting crime, start community watching. Now is the time for us to reclaim our communities.”
The gun buyback was part of a two-part campaign by Empowerment Temple to help impact crime and its victims. The effort kicked off Aug. 5 with a two-hour memorial service and rally for all the families in Baltimore who have lost loved ones to street violence. Nearly 400 people filled the sanctuary. Rev. Bryant comforted families who were still trying to come to terms with losing loved ones to senseless violence.
“The memorial service was a launch pad to move the community to stand together to finally do something against gun violence in our city,” Bryant said. “…At what point will we say enough is enough?”
Sixty guns were collected during the three-hour gun buyback, including several shotguns and rifles. The church’s outreach coordinator, Christopher Brown, said the church “donated $10,000 towards funding the program.”
West Baltimore resident George Chainey turned in a .22-cal. pump-action rifle, which he said he’s owned for nearly 20 years.
“I don’t need it and I know it’s going to be in good hands,” he said. “Besides, a little cash never hurt nobody.”