HAVERHILL — Imagine a situation where parents inherited a handgun from a family member then stored it in a box in a closet, thinking it was safe for the time being.
Then the unthinkable happens.
Their inquisitive child finds the gun, and maybe it’s loaded or it was stored along with some bullets, and a tragedy ensues. Imagine that same gun was stolen during a break-in, and somehow it ended up on the street, and in the hands of a criminal who uses it in a robbery, or maybe a home invasion, such as the kind that happened in Haverhill this summer when two men were shot to death.
Police say these are the kinds of situations they hope can be avoided by giving residents a chance to turn in their unwanted guns with no questions asked.
Recently, the city amassed a small arsenal of weapons when it held its first gun buyback program at the Citizens Center. Police said residents turned in 24 handguns, 15 rifles and shotguns, 15 non-working guns, about 200 rounds of ammunition, including some armor-piercing bullets, as well as a Vietnam War-era hand grenade that was turned into the state police for destruction. A few pellet rifles were turned in as well.
Police spokesman Lt. Robert Pistone said it was a good deal for residents, as the city handed out gift cards for each weapon turned in, up to a maximum of three gift cards per person. Mayor James Fiorentini said he budgeted $2,500 for gift cards, but the demand exceeded expectations. Residents received $50 cards for a working rifle, and $100 cards for working pistols. In all, the city gave out $2,400 in gift cards for pistols that were turned in and $750 for rifles and shotguns that were turned in.
“Most of the people were pleased to get rid of the guns as they were afraid that they may have eventually ended up in the wrong hands,” Pistone said.