Roanoke prepares for another gun buyback event; turn guns in for groceries

Published: May. 19, 2023 at 6:38 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Roanoke community organizations are getting ready to host another gun buyback event June 24.

Groceries Not Guns’ is working to remove firearms from homes so they’re not stolen and put back on the same streets where shootings happen. Roanoke branch NAACP president and organizer Brenda Hale explained getting rid of guns will prevent kids from getting ahold of them.

“We are making a difference right here in the Roanoke Valley,” Hale said.

‘Groceries Not Guns’ bought back 250 guns during the last two events. Gun owners received $250 for turning in a semi-automatic handgun and $150 for a shotgun, rifle or revolver.

“We are encouraging not just a total number of guns collected but also a divestment,” NAACP committee chair for ‘Groceries Not Guns’ Catherine Koebel Stromberg said. “A divestment from a culture of guns and violence and investment in a culture of nonviolence and community.”

Roanoke Police Chief Sam Roman explained the buybacks are successful at keeping guns from getting in the wrong hands.

“Anytime that we are able to mitigate violence by removing a gun out of the home or the hands of someone who could use that gun to harm another individual is considered a success,” Chief Roman said. “This is a part of the process of reducing gun violence.”

More of Roanoke’s youth have been involved in recent shootings. Organizers are trying to change that mindset.

“We want to capture that market of these young folks that have guns in their hands and they have them illegally,” Hale said. “You have a choice that you can make. You can bring them to us and there will be no questions asked and no one will be going to jail.”

Organizer Mike Heller explained ‘Groceries Not Guns’ wants to bring down the number of shooting homicides and shooting suicides.

“People know about the statistics of how many shootings or gun deaths there are in Roanoke City, but we don’t have statistics for how many lives were saved, because the gun violence didn’t happen,” Heller said.

Once the guns are turned in, Roanoke Police will get rid of them properly so the firearms don’t end back up in circulation.

‘Groceries Not Guns’ will happen at the Melrose Community Center, 1427 Melrose Avenue NW, June 24 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.