WORCESTER — City residents can exchange their unwanted guns Saturday for gift cards at the Worcester Police Department in Lincoln Square and City Welding & Fabrication on Ararat Street in the 21st annual gun buyback program.
Cities and towns throughout Central Massachusetts will be holding buyback events at their local police stations that same morning.
Representatives from UMass Memorial Injury Prevention Center as well as police chiefs from participating cities and towns attended a press conference Thursday at Mercantile Center announcing the buybacks, which will take place at nine collection sites across the region.
The events are part of a nationwide initiative by Guns to Gardens, which remakes guns obtained at buybacks into gardening tools, which are then distributed to community gardens fighting food insecurity.
“You’re taking the guns and beating them into plowshares — does it get anything better than that?” said Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. “This is one of the best programs that I am proud to be partnering with so many great people to make this work.”
The Worcester collection sites will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, and will offer complete anonymity as well as amnesty for any illegally owned guns, opening up a safe avenue for those who previously had few options.
Guns can be exchanged for gift cards supplied by UMass Memorial Health and the Worcester District Attorney’s Office, including: $50 for a rifle; $100 for a pistol; $150 for a semiautomatic weapon of any kind.
To further promote gun safety habits, gunowners can pick up a free trigger lock, even if they're not bringing in a gun.
“They could try to get them fenced on the street or go to a gun dealer, but if they’re not legally owned, they’re not going to get very far,” said Dr. Michael Hirsh, Worcester Division of Public Health medical director and UMass Memorial Health physician. “This gives people agency to make their home safer.”
Hirsh has devoted his career to preventing injury through gun violence is the one who brought the program to Worcester in 2002, as well as one of the original organizers behind the first Goods for Guns event in Pittsburgh in 1994, where he was working as a trauma surgeon.
“I don’t believe in taking care of patients that are injured without trying to do something about what caused their injury,” he said.
Northborough, Shrewsbury, Westborough and Worcester residents can bring guns to the Worcester Police Department or City Welding & Fabrication, or a collection site more convenient to them.
“The gun buyback also raises awareness of the responsibility and importance of storing your guns safely,” said Hirsh.
Other participating towns and police stations include: Athol and Auburn, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Dudley, Fitchburg, Northborough and Spencer, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Leominster, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Guns must be brought in unloaded and wrapped. If an owner is uncertain whether a gun is loaded, they can leave it in the car and ask police to inspect and retrieve it.
This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Gun buyback program returns Saturday to 9 sites in Worcester County