HAVERHILL — If you have a pistol, shotgun or assault rifle lying around and could use some free groceries, the city’s got a deal for you.
The Police Department is trading gift cards to local grocery stores for guns — including real weapons, replicas, non-working firearms, BB guns and ammunition — as part of the city’s first-ever Gun Buyback program. Similar programs have been used in Boston and other communities in Massachusetts and across the country to get stolen guns off the street and out of the hands of would-be criminals.
The weapons, look-alikes and bullets are being accepted Nov. 15 from 6:30 to 11 p.m. at the Citizens Center, 10 Welcome St. The program is designed to allow residents to turn weapons in anonymously, without showing identification. A press release put out by the city promises “no questions asked.”
“This program aims to collect as many firearms as possible that sit in homes in our city,” Mayor James Fiorentini said in the release. “The idea is to cut down on the amount of potential guns that could be stolen during house breaks and be introduced to the criminal trade or get into the hands of children, jeopardizing their safety.”
Fiorentini said the gift cards are to local businesses and grocery stores, including Market Basket. The gift cards range in value from $50 for a regular rifle to $100 for a handgun and $150 for an assault rifle. Tonight, the City Council is scheduled to consider a request from the mayor to transfer $2,500 from the city’s cash reserve account to pay for the program.
Officials are asking that all pistols be driven in car trunks or carried to the Citizens Center in either a box or clear bag. Rifles and shotguns are to be transported in trunks of automobiles and left there until a police officer removes them. At the Citizens Center, a plain-clothes police officer will assist the seller with carrying any long guns into the building, to avoid accidents or injury.
There is no limit to the number of weapons the city will accept, but a maximum of three gift cards will be given to any resident.
Police Chief Alan DeNaro said anonymous buyback programs are used in many cities across the Unites States and are a proven way to help keep stolen guns off the street.
“This national initiative has worked in many communities and I would like to see it work in our city,” DeNaro said.
In Boston, gun drop-offs have netted more than 1,000 firearms at a time. That city has offered as much as $200 gift certificates at stores such as Target.
While identification is not required to turn in a weapon, police typically test all guns to make sure they have not been used in a crime. It not, the weapons are destroyed, melted down and used to make products such as sewer covers, officials said.
If a ballistics test comes back positive for use in a crime, police reserve the right to investigate, officials said.