|By G. Michael Dobbs|
SPRINGFIELD The second annual "Gifts for Guns" program this Saturday took 154 guns out of the homes and potentially off the street of residents in Springfield, East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, West Springfield and Wilbraham.
The program allowed people to hand-in guns anonymously and did not require gun registrations. The collection points in each of the communities also supplied gun owners with free gunlocks and with information on how to prevent gun injuries. In exchange for the firearms, the donors received a $75 gift card to Eastfield Mall for a semi-automatic weapon, a $50 gift card for a handgun and a $25 gift card for a long gun.
The program was the product of a coalition between the police departments of the participating communities, Eastfield Mall, Pediatric Surgical Services of the Baystate Children's Hospital and the Hampden County Juvenile Court.
Last year, 134 guns were collected and Jane Albert, Director of Public Affairs and Community Relations, told Reminder Publications that although a program for next year has not yet been discussed by the organizing committee, based on the increased number of guns that were turned in this year, another program is likely. She added the committee might also consider expanding the program to other communities.
According to statistics supplied by the Centers for Disease Control, a gun in the home is 22 times more likely to kill a family member or a friends than kill an intruder and 40 percent of homes with children in this country have guns, many unlocked or loaded.
Dr. Kevin P. Moriarty, a pediatric surgeon at Baystate Children's Hospital, has seen the results locally of children and guns and said, "The real tragedy of so many of these terrible gun injuries to kids is that they are totally preventable. Always keeping guns loaded, unloaded and off limits to kids or better yet, not having guns in your home at all would effectively end the danger to children. We would stop seeing young people's life shattered by guns."
Sergeant Trent Hufnagel of the Springfield Police Department said that if someone has a gun in their home and no longer wants it, the way to best dispose of the weapon is to call the local police department so that officers can come to the residence and retrieve it. Hufnagel strongly cautioned against bringing the firearm to a police station.