The Seattle Times, Oct. 18, 2022
Guy Axelson never really used the pistols he inherited after his father-in-law died five years ago.
“They’re just locked up all of the time,” he said. “I don’t want any more around than what I need.”
Over the weekend, he had the perfect opportunity to get rid of them. Axelson was among dozens of people who left the Everett Police Department hundreds of dollars richer after dropping off their unwanted guns.
The department hosted a “guns for gift cards” event Saturday, offering up to $300 per firearm. Some gun owners waited in line almost two hours to cash in on the deal, with cars wrapped around the building and down the street as the event started.
No gun-rights debate. No big political statements. This was transactional, and in more than a few cases, about safety.
To participate, Everett residents had to bring an official document to prove they live in town, like a driver’s license or utility bill, but didn’t have to sign up or file paperwork.
Within the first 20 minutes, officers took in nearly 40 firearms – big and small, new and old. Some of the forfeited firearms had been used in wars, or passed down through generations after being brought overseas in the 1800s. One person brought a gun her boyfriend gave to her in 1968 before he went to Vietnam.
Several other people also showed up to get rid of firearms they inherited after family members died.
Eila Pergiel was turning overher late husband’s old gun that she said, “doesn’t function very well.” She still has a gun of her own, but thought it best to get rid of her husband’s pistol with the police department instead of continuing to have it sit around her house. She said she saw the event as a great opportunity to reduce the number of guns “floating around.”
“It gets rid of some guns that shouldn’t be on the street,” she said. “There’s way too many out there.”
Others, like Don Staples, just wanted to free up space and reduce risks in their home. Staples said he likely won’t buy another gun until his kids are out of the house. With the demands of family life – and as ammunition and costs to shoot at the range become more expensive – he said he doesn’t think having guns stored in his garage is worth the risk.
Everett isn’t the only department in the region recently offering gun buybacks. Mukilteo police hosted a similar event earlier this month. Everett police Officer Ora Hamel said her department was inspired by successful buybacks in Kirkland. Over the summer, 151 firearms were given to the Kirkland Police Department in exchange for gift cards. Kirkland hosted a third buyback in October.
Part of what prompted Everett to follow suit, Hamel said, is the rising number of 911 calls and homicides involving firearms. The department has recorded 90 calls of “shots fired” this year through November, compared to 68 in 2021, and 41 the year prior. This year, Everett police have recorded 11 homicides involving guns, compared to three last year.
Many people who dropped off guns in Everett on Saturday said rising crime and the possibility of excess or unused guns being stolen was part of why they wanted to participate. It’s an easier way to get rid of guns safely, said Linda Bresler, who didn’t want to try to sell the old revolver she brought in.
But the financial incentive certainly motivated people, too, with a few citing that as their main consideration to show up on the chilly, drizzly morning. Some left with hundreds of dollars, or more than a thousand. Individuals were allowed to bring up to 10 firearms each, and at least one person did. Handguns were worth $200, rifles or shotguns brought $100, and AR-15s or AK-47s, $300. Inoperable guns went for $25 a piece.
Hamel said another buyback event is possible if the department gets funding for it and the community is receptive.
“I don’t see why not,” she said.
If the response to Saturday’s event is any indication, public interest shouldn’t be a problem.
The department collected a total of 241 guns in a little more than two hours, including 9 AR-15s or AK-47s, and 109 rifles or shotguns.
Great idea, it won't solve the problem, but it is a good start!
I loved Western Washington when I lived there, and this makes me miss it all that much more.
And this happened in Western Washington. Wonder if this could happen across the Cascade Curtain?