Police gun buyback program Sat. also offers shots … flu shotsby Linda Bock TELEGRAM, telegram.com
November 30th 2012
Flu shots instead of gunshots. People can get free flu shots Saturday and next Saturday, even if they don’t turn in a gun at the city’s annual Goods for Guns buyback program. City residents, or residents of any other community, may bring their unwanted weapons, unloaded and wrapped in a bag, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday to the Worcester Police headquarters in Lincoln Square, or from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 8 to the Worcester Division of Public Health, 25 Meade St.
Since the program's inception in 2002, the Goods for Guns Program have collected 2,200 guns in exchange for gift certificates.
“Absolutely, positively, come one, come all,” said Deputy Police Chief Edward J. McGinn. “We’re not asking any names or questions.”
A year ago, 40 guns were turned in to police. Deputy Chief McGinn said guns turned in are destroyed.
The Goods for Guns program is similar to buyback programs throughout the country. In this case, people who anonymously turn in operable guns at the police station will be given a Wegman’s gift certificate with a value that depends on the type of gun. A long rifle earns a $25 gift certificate, a handgun nets a $50 gift certificate, and a semiautomatic weapon yields a $75 gift certificate.
The program is collaboration between the city police and public health departments, UMass Memorial Medical Center’s Injury Prevention and community partners.
Also involved is the office of District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. On days of the buyback program, people bringing guns directly from home to the police station will be granted amnesty if they are not properly licensed.
Dr. Michael P. Hirsh, chief of the Division of Pediatric Surgery & Trauma at UMass Memorial and the city’s acting public health commissioner, said the city’s successful program has become a model for other cities. He also believes the successful gun buyback program over the years is a contributing factor in the city having the lowest firearm fatality rate of any New England city.
“We’re asking folks to bring in any guns that they can’t store properly,” Dr. Hirsh said. “And by being stored properly, I mean unloaded and locked away from children.”
Dr. Hirsh started the first gun buyback program in Pittsburgh in 1994 because he suffered the loss of a fellow surgeon, John C. Wood II, who was shot and killed on his way to work one day outside the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in upper Manhattan on Nov. 2, 1981. His son, John C. Wood III, plans to participate this year.
LaNyia Johnson, sitting in a wheelchair, and his mother, Marcy Johnson of Worcester, attended a news conference at Worcester Police headquarters to offer their continuing support of the program. Mr. Johnson, 18, was just 13 when he was struck by a stray bullet while was sitting on a couch at his aunt’s house on Douglas Street. The bullet came through a door and struck him in the spine. He was paralyzed from the waist down.
“Dr. Hirsh and my mom are very cool,” Mr. Johnson said when asked how he became involved with the program.
His advice for other teens? “Find a goal in your life and chase it instead of being inside negative activities,” he said.
Terrance Reidy, chief of the gang unit for the district attorney’s office, prosecuted Mr. Johnson’s shooter, and said it was a tragedy that should have never have happened. Mr. Reidy said the way he looks at the program; over 2,000 potential tragedies were averted.
“There was the potential for over 2,000 people to be hurt,” Mr. Reidy said.
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