WEAPONS CACHE—A total of 135 guns and rifles and a variety of shotguns were loaded for destruction in a police cruiser after the gun buyback. (Photo by Rossano P. Stewart)
In the years since the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation formed a public safety task force, crime in the neighborhood had been reduced by 42 percent. But that changed in 2012 when a series of four shootings occurred within a five-month period.
“So we had two murders in a short time and then we had two invasions with guns. Our task force was doing everything in their power,” said BGC Deputy Director Aggie Brose. “These were all unrelated incidents. These were not gang incidents.”
In an effort to curb the gun violence they saw reemerging in their community, BGC joined forces with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police to host a gun buyback, which was held Sept. 21. The buyback yielded 135 returned guns in total. Nine of the firearms were assault weapons and six guns had their serial numbers removed.
“Those guns were evidently involved in some illegal activity,” said Brose of the guns with the missing serial numbers. “That right there tells me it was a success. From the guns we took in, we were able to save someone’s life.”
According to the police’s 2012 Annual Report, there were three homicides in Garfield in 2012 and zero in Bloomfield. In 2011, there were zero homicides in either neighborhood.
Over the same time period, violent crime in Bloomfield-Garfield increased by 28 percent from 99 incidents in 2011 to 138 incidents in 2012.
BGC gave sellers $100 in Visa gift cards for handguns, shotguns, and rifles; and $250 for assault-style weapons. Seven people arrived after the gift cards ran out, and five left their guns without being compensated. Among them was a man whose brother was killed last month and another who wore a shirt baring the face of a lost loved one.
“We were out of funds and one man came in he said ‘that’s fine, I don’t want these guns on the street anymore,’” Brose said.
This was just one of the touching moments Brose said she experienced throughout the day. Another occurred when a mother came in to sell a pair of shotguns only to find out they were loaded.
While the buyback took place at BGC’s Activity Center, representatives from unknown gun dealers stood across the street holding signs offering to buy the sellers’ guns. Despite their efforts, Brose said she thinks only two people were drawn away.
“We feel it was a very successful day because we feel the guns taken off the street could’ve been used in the street again,” Brose said. “I don’t know how to measure it, but it is an awareness campaign. We’re getting calls from people who missed it asking when’s the next one. So we hope in the future funders will be more receptive.”
The organization raised approximately $13,000 for the buyback with the largest donation of $10,000 coming from the Pittsburgh Foundation. Highmark also contributed $2,500 and PNC Bank helped process the gift cards by waiving the usual fees.
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