'Gifts for Guns' buyback program expanding

November 21, 2017 07:03 PM

Albany County District Attorney David Soares and Pastor Charlie Muller are prepping for the holiday season. They want your illegal guns.

This is the ninth year of the "Gifts for Guns" buyback program. In those nine years, the program has traded gift cards for 650 illegal guns and it's no longer just Albany. This year, the program is expanding to Troy.

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The hope is Victorious Life Church in downtown Troy will have a table of illegal handguns to show off at the end of December, just like Victory Church in Albany has for nine years.

"I don't know how much success we'll have. We're hoping for good success, but if we get one or two community guns off the street, that's going to be phenomenal, a potential lifesaver down the road," pointed out Rensselaer County Sheriff Pat Russo.

With a new city to supply with gift cards for guns, St. Peter's kicked off this year with the most funding yet. It's $17,000 in total. Of that, $10,000 is from St. Peter's, after an employee was shot at a Father's Day cookout in Albany.

"Gun violence shook our family in June, when a beloved Albany Memorial Hospital colleague, Terrence 'Deke' Roberts, was murdered with an illegal handgun," explained Virginia Golden, the St. Peter's CEO.

The program initially started with another heartbreaking shooting back in 2008. A young girl named Katrina Thomas was shot and killed by a bullet meant for someone else.

District Attorney David Soares says the community leapt at the chance to turn in handguns. However, that 650 they've collected are just some of the illegal firearms in Albany.

"That's voluntary surrendering of weapons. That doesn't even bring in the numbers that are obtained as a result of interdiction," explained Albany County District Attorney David Soares.

The weapons are collected at the churches, so it isn't as intimidating as a police station.

"You're going to get a gift card to the mall, but, you know what, we're not taking rifles we're not taking legal handguns, we're taking illegal handguns," noted Muller.

The churches will be taking guns Saturdays in December.

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple donated $4,000 and the Capital Gun Group donated $3,000.

You can call Pastor Charlie at (518) 434-6100 anytime to arrange for a gun exchange.


WNYT Staff

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