(Photo: Reuters/Michelle McLoughlin)
A Brooklyn, New York church called Coney Island Gospel Assembly Church held a gun buyback program this past weekend, acting as a mediator between gun owners and authorities.
"To overcome the fact that some people are intimidated when it comes to turning guns in to a police precinct, we got the churches and clergy involved," said Charles Hynes, Brooklyn District Attorney, in a statement for the "Cash for Guns" program.
The gun buyback program says its aim is to take illegal, functioning guns off the streets by offering owners a monetary reward with no questions asked. During the event this past weekend, officials who facilitated the Coney Island Gospel Assembly Church event awarded $200 for each eligible operable handgun that was surrendered.
Since its inception in 2008, the Brooklyn's District Attorney's office along with numerous churches has collected over 2,000 guns.
"If it was up to me, I would have these gun buyback programs no less than every three weeks," Hynes told NY 1 news. "The answer to the question that's always asked, do criminals really return their guns? Well, probably not. But criminals will break into your homes, they'll break into your car, they'll take your gun, and that gun ends up on the street hurting children and other civilians and cops."
"The success of this program goes a long way towards reducing violent crime in Brooklyn. Each gun that is taken off the streets could lead to one less robbery," said Hynes on the "Cash for Guns" website.
Across the country, a multi-faith organization called Together Colorado is also planning to hold a gun buyback event that was spurred by the shooting violence the state has witnessed in past years.
"Years ago, we had Columbine High School and more recently, we had the movie theater shooting in Aurora," said the Rev. Sheila Dierks, who is helping with the program, to The Christian Post. "We have ongoing violence with guns in the state overall. It deeply affects all people in all communities especially in faith communities."
Currently, the organization is revving up to host their first event in August with the help from elected city officials, city council members, law enforcement and a local arts commission group.
"After we take possession of the guns, we will turn them over to the sheriff's office where they will check to make sure they are not loaded," said Dierks. "The guns will then be gathered and transported to Denver where they will be put through a metal shredder and made into metal pieces the size of a dime," she added.
Jessica Adams, a Colorado-based artist, will then collaborate with a group of people who have been affected by gun violence and turn the pieces into a sculpture to represent the biblical verse in Isaiah 2:4, which says: "He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore."
Deirks hopes the sculpture, which will be placed in an outdoor public setting in Boulder, Colo., will raise gun-violence awareness.
"We are crippled by the fear of guns. We ask, are we safe at the grocery store? At the movies? We live in a world where we fear them. So we talk about this as a public health and safety issue," said Dierks.
Gun violence is an issue that has the entire community involved, says Dierks. The event will also be sponsored by a local high school that raised nearly $8,000 over the past year to fund the financial compensations.
Dierks sees the work of reducing gun violence as part of the church's main responsibility.
"As faith leaders we have the experience of having to sit in hospitals and mortuaries and ask what this is about and why. We are called to do something not just ask 'what would God say?' All religions seek peace but we can actually join in with other communities to do what we consider the work of God, make peace on earth."