Minneapolis will host a gun turn-in program seeking to take hundreds of firearms off the streets and turn them into works of art, city officials and the nonprofit group Pillsbury United Communities announced this week.
“Part of this is to create awareness that we are in a health crisis around gun violence in our community,” said Chanda Baker, the group’s president and CEO. “It is to get the ordinary person that perhaps isn’t tuned in to get tuned in and perhaps move toward action.”
As part of Saturday's program, residents can turn over their weapons, no questions asked, at one of two fire house – Fire Station 14, at 2002 Lowry Av. N., and Station 17, 330 E. 38th St. – and receive Visa gift cards, ranging from $25 to $300, depending on the caliber and condition of the weapon. Smith said that guns can be dropped off without fear of being arrested.
In years past, the effort has yielded between 200 and 300 weapons, Baker said on Wednesday.
She added that officials will check serial numbers of repossessed weapons, before they’re "decommissioned," and that any stolen guns will be returned to their rightful owner. The event will be held from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
The dismantled firearms will be used in a new campaign, called “Art is My Weapon,” to promote artists exploring the impact of gun violence on the community, she said.
“What I like about this initiative is it is deeply personal and it brings attention and emotion to a societal issue that really affects us all,” Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau said in a news release. “The current cycle of gun violence requires a community solution and this will be more than a conversation starter.”
While experts are skeptical about the effectiveness of similar programs, local officials say they hope the effort can make a dent in the gun violence that has plagued parts of the city this year.
The city has recorded fewer homicides than in 2015, but the number of people wounded in shootings has increased 46 percent, to 233 so far, from the 160 shot through Aug. 22 of last year. In North Minneapolis, which accounts for most of the gun violence, 166 people have been shot, up 71 percent compared to this this time last year.
Councilman Cam Gordon, another supporter of the program, pointed out that all but one of city’s 22 homicides this year were committed with a firearm.
“This initiative is a great way to get guns out of our homes and off the street and bring attention and energy to this crisis,” said Gordon, who sits on the Public Safety committee.
The department has so far seized 424 guns, compared to the 455 taken off the streets this time last year.