Waterville police, Maine Gun Safety Coalition to host ‘gun giveback’ day

WATERVILLE — People with unwanted guns or ammunition may take them to the Police Department next week as part of an event being hosted by both the department and the Maine Gun Safety Coalition.

The “gun giveback” will be held from 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday, June 11, in the parking lot of the Police Department, located at 10 Colby St. Similar events will be held that day and time at eight other law enforcement agencies statewide.

Long guns, shotguns, handguns, air rifles and pellet guns will be accepted. Upon arrival people should remain in their vehicles and an officer will retrieve the firearms and ammunition for safe handling.

The Maine Gun Safety Coalition started holding the event in 2019 but this is the first year Waterville police will be participating, according to Police Chief Joseph Massey.

He said the program allows gun owners to safely dispose of unwanted firearms and ammunition that they do not feel comfortable selling or giving away.

“We will have free gun locks available and gun safety pamphlets that provide tips on how to safely store your guns and ammo at home,” Massey said in an email. “This program is similar to the Drug Take Back program we hold every year that allows folks to safely dispose of unused prescription medication.”

Geoff Bickford, executive director of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, said Wednesday that he has worked with Massey in the past and helped provide gun locks and gun safety pamphlets to the department. Bickford said he approached him about holding a gun giveback day and Massey was happy to do it.

A national debate is once again being held on the merits of restrictions on gun ownership following the mass shooting in Buffalo in which 10 were killed and the school shooting 10 days later in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two adults dead. The gun giveback effort in Maine is not in response to those shootings and organizing for it began well before they happened.

The coalition started what was intended to be an annual giveback event in 2019, but then the pandemic interrupted it, according to Bickford.

Nevertheless, in that first year more than 500 firearms and more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition were turned in, he said.

The coalition does not offer money in return for the guns and ammunition as it does not have the funds, he said. This year the coalition is partnering with the Portland Metal Works Guild and Sweden-based Humanium Metal. The firearms will be cut up and shipped to Pittsburgh where the metal will be repurposed into high-end jewelry, including watches, and sold at a premium, according to Bickford.

Money generated from the sales are then returned to the coalition which will use it to continue buying safe gun storage devices such as gun locks, he said.

Besides the Waterville Police Department, law enforcement agencies taking part in the gun giveback event are the Bath, Brunswick, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Saco, Topsham and Yarmouth police departments, as well as the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Department.

Asked how many people in Maine have firearms, Bickford said there’s no way to tell because Maine does not require gun owners to be licensed or register their firearms. However, people who purchase guns from a federally licensed gun dealer such as a large gun store must undergo a background check, which is required by the federal government.

Bickford said the best estimate being circulated is that “roughly half of all Maine households have guns.”

“Those are just guesses,” he said. “My suspicion is it’s significantly higher than that.”

The Waterville Police Department’s Facebook page says the event June 11 will include an educational component involving safe gun storage. Officers have seen unsafe storage methods used in homes, it says.

“We encourage individuals to take advantage of this so we can help you with safe storage of firearms, especially in family homes,” the post says. “More importantly, this is simply an option for people to get rid of guns and ammo that they don’t want in their home anymore. People may not feel comfortable giving the firearms to a gun shop or giving them to someone that they have never met, as many of you have offered.”

A certified firearms instructor will be available at the event to talk with gun owners about gun safety and proper storage of firearms in the home.

“All too frequently in Maine, a child discovers an unsecured firearm and is injured or killed because of improper storage,” the post said. “Our focus is to safely dispose of unwanted firearms and ammunition so they are not accessed by children or end up in the hands of someone that would use them to commit crimes.”

The Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics also is sponsoring the event. Anyone wanting more information about it is asked to call 780-0501 or email [email protected]


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