Tablet Local

Groups hold dueling gun buybacks in Dallas

The goal was to get at least one.

But organizers of a recent gun buyback in Dallas say they bought more than a dozen guns from people who wanted them out of their homes.

“Now there’s 15 less chances there’s a tragedy, and we’re glad for that,” said the Rev. Bruce Buchanan, an associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, which has The Stewpot ministry.

The church’s buyback coincided with the first anniversary of the massacre in Newtown, Conn. — which left 20 children and six educators dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School — and with another gun buyback in Dallas.

As the church worked to buy guns so they could be destroyed, members of the Come and Take It Texas gun-rights group tried to buy firearms at the same site — so they could be put back into circulation.

The group said it bought four or five guns in its effort to supply firearms to the Safe Mother program, geared toward training women in need to use handguns for self-defense.

“We didn’t want those guns to be destroyed,” said Murdock Pizgatti, founder and president of Come and Take It Texas. “An armed society is a polite society.”

Communities generally hold gun buybacks to give people a chance to sell firearms and get them off the streets and out of homes.

The Stewpot offered $50 for handguns and rifles and up to $200 for semiautomatic assault weapons. Come and Take It Texas offered a little more.

Both sides said the result was the same: People who no longer wanted their firearms could get rid of them and make a little Christmas money.

“We wanted to plant a seed in the community to consider doing this,” said Buchanan, who has hosted gun buybacks in Dallas for more than a decade. “We know it has been done successfully in many other cities.

“The goal was a modest one: to encourage the community to do this as an option for making family homes safer.”

Preventing gun deaths

The Dallas buyback fell on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings, which prompted a national discussion about gun control.

It was the second buyback hosted by the church this year, and organizers say they bought a total of 126 guns.

Buchanan said he wants to help prevent gun deaths like those in Connecticut and Colorado — especially when 25,000 people a year are victims of gun violence.

“Nearly every community has been touched by violent gun deaths,” he said. “There are over 3 million weapons in private hands. And statistically, if you have a gun in your home, that gun will be used against you or stolen or someone in your family will use it accidentally.

“The tragedies are all too frequent.”

When the ministry began the effort, organizers thought, “If we get just one, it’s a success.”

In the past 13 years, they have bought around 700 firearms and removed them from circulation, Buchanan said.

“Mostly those who have sold them have been family units — a husband, wife — and maybe they had it before they were married or were given it,” Buchanan said. “Now there are children in their home and they don’t want it.

“The first couple [at the recent sale] had a rifle and three handguns,” he said. “They said they are so glad to get them out of the house.”

Providing for those in need

Pizgatti said he didn’t want to see the guns destroyed because so many people could use them to protect their homes and families.

“When a burglar breaks into a house, he’s not going to wait until the police get there to [attack] someone,” he said. “We set out to buy guns people didn’t want, pay a more fair price and put them in the hands of people who really need them.

“We wanted [the buyback efforts] to coincide,” he said. “We went there to intercept any of these guns that we could to keep them from being destroyed.”

During the recent buyback, several Come and Take It members were present, as were members of Open Carry Texas and “three to six independent buyers who were Christmas-shopping.”

While his group bought a few long guns, Pizgatti said, he was disappointed that it couldn’t buy any handguns for the Safe Mother program.

In the Facebook post announcing the buyback, the group said its goal was to “outbid them and help keep the children safe by putting them in the hands of those that need them most.”

So the group offered $20 more than the church paid. And Pizgatti said the group will likely do more “full-on” gun buybacks.

“We are pushing for a safer environment in society for everyone.”