February 26, 2013 10:15:24 AM
Sarah Fowler - [email protected]
What was scheduled to be a three-day event lasted less than three hours as the Columbus Police Department received an overwhelming response to their gun buyback program.
The police department reserved $10,000 for the program. Those funds were exhausted quickly and the program was shut down at 11:45 a.m. Monday.
Under the program, people could sell their guns anonymously for amounts ranging from $20 (for BB guns/air rifles) to $300 (military/assault rifles). CPD paid $100 for handguns and $200 for rifles/shotguns. There were four designated locations for the program and lines had already formed before the 9 a.m. start time.
Jim, who asked that his last name not be used, drove from Tupelo to try to turn in two shotguns, a handgun and a BB pellet rifle. By the time he arrived at a buyback location in the Columbus Walmart parking lot, the program had been shut down.
"I got here and they said they had already given away all of the money," he said.
Jim, 50, said he was going to try to sell his guns as a way to make a little extra money.
"My finances are kind of tight and I was going to use it to help pay the rent this month," he said.
Jim said his guns were in a safe at his home but that he rarely used them.
"Three of the guns I've had since I was kid," he said.
While Jim was going to try to sell four guns, he had already decided to keep one shotgun.
"I'm going to take Vice President Biden's advice. He said you don't really need a handgun, so I'm going to keep my shotgun," Jim joked.
Jim wasn't the only person disappointed that the program ended so quickly.
Another man who showed up at the Walmart location said that when he and some other people in line found out the program had run out money they began trading among themselves.
"It's just a bunch of people exercising their Second Amendment right," he said. "We're doing private face-to-face sales. It's perfectly legal in the state of Mississippi."
CPD Public Information Officer Glenda Buckhalter said the department was not expecting such an overwhelming response but they were incredibly pleased with the outcome.
"The turnout was overwhelming," Buckhalter said.
"They basically had to turn people away. It was more than they expected," she said.
By 9:45 a.m., officers at the Walmart location ran out of money. The program was shut down temporarily until more money could be brought to the site.
Initially, a gun owner could turn in as many guns as he wanted. However, after the money began running out, the CPD limited purchases to one gun per owner.
Numerous people in line at Walmart had buggies full of firearms they were trying to sell.
Buckhalter said the department received a wide variety of firearms.
"We received assault rifles, handguns, you name it," Buckhalter said. "They are here in all shapes and sizes."
CPD Chief Selvain McQueen refused to talk to the Dispatch about the program Monday.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.