C.hris Blumenstein from Santa Fe waited in a line of cars and felt both fear and relief as he prepared to get rid of his handgun.
“I don’t like guns,” he said. “I wish there were no guns in our society.”
He bought the Smith & Wesson .38 caliber pistol 10 years ago while on an extended camping trip in Seattle.
Now: “I have a young niece. If she came to visit and something terrible happened, it would be life changing, ”said Blumenstein, concerned about the recent on-set murder involving actor Alec Baldwin near Santa Fe. “It just makes me realize that you just can’t plan for contingencies – that anything could happen.”
He and dozens of others attended a gun buyback Saturday held by the New Mexicans Gun Violence Prevention Nonprofit, along with Santa Fe and the city police. The event organizers invited the public to surrender unwanted firearms without question in exchange for gift cards.
“This is about getting guns that people no longer want in their homes and that could fall into the wrong hands because they are often kept in a closet or under a mattress,” said deputy boss Ben Valdez. “We don’t want that [firearm] used for a tragic incident. “
A line of cars had already formed when the event began at 9 a.m. in front of the Santa Fe Municipal Court. Gun owners have been instructed to put their unwanted firearms unloaded in the trunk of their vehicles.
Volunteers removed the guns and took them to a police checkpoint where the guns were examined to make sure they were not loaded. From there the weapons were taken to a second check point where they were cataloged. Police checked the serial number of each weapon to make sure it wasn’t stolen.
Extinguished guns were taken to a third checkpoint where they were cut into pieces with a circular saw. The scrap metal is to be forged into garden tools.
In exchange for the firearms, New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence provided gift cards from Albertsons Market, Amazon, Target, Walmart, Sam’s Club and Food King. The group traded $ 250 in gift cards for an assault rifle, $ 200 for a semi-automatic handgun or semi-automatic rifle, and $ 100 for a long gun or pistol. The gift cards were financed by private donations.
Bob Hazen, 76, of Santa Fe turned in three guns: a 12-gauge shotgun, a .38-caliber pistol, and a 9-mm semi-automatic pistol.
“Don’t need them anymore. Just cluttered the house, ”he said. “I hunted a few years ago – birds, deer.”
Lori Shepard from Santa Fe has been volunteering for gun buybacks for new Mexicans since 2018 to prevent gun violence. She said she was doing this “to prevent unnecessary deaths from guns”.
Shepard, now a clinical social worker, previously worked in the trauma ward at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.
“Seeing a three-year-old shoot with a gun is very worrying,” she said. “Why are guns so simple that a three-year-old can shoot and injure himself?”
Mayor Alan Webber said of the buyback: “We can get them off the streets and in return give the family something they need more than a potentially dangerous weapon in the wrong place.”
New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence was founded in 2013 and has hosted 13 gun buyback events – four of them with the Santa Fe Police Department.
The group’s co-president, Miranda Viscoli, said she helped found the grassroots nonprofit after the 2012 mass shooting of Sandy Hook Elementary School, which killed 20 children and six adults.
She said many are concerned about gun violence in New Mexico “because our numbers are so bad”.
“Gun buyback is one of our programs,” said Viscoli. “We also do murals depicting students across New Mexico on gun violence prevention.”
“We have passed three gun violence prevention laws so far,” she said. “And now we are working [with the governor] via an office for the prevention and intervention of gun violence so that we can actually contain the issue of gun violence in New Mexico. “
At the start of the event on Saturday, Viscoli said the group had collected 940 firearms at their various events. After the three-hour buyback ended, there were 72 more, she said.