Buyback event trades weapons for gas cards

A high-powered Japanese sniper rifle, a sawed-off shotgun, a revolver missing a bullet chamber and a BB gun were among the weapons people hauled to a church Saturday for the latest Baton Rouge “Gas for Guns” buyback event.

Not everyone left the Living Faith Christian Center on Winbourne Avenue with a Circle K gas card for turning their unused and unwanted guns in to law enforcement officials, though.

They did not meet the criteria to receive a $50 Circle K gas card because their weapons were illegal, were missing parts or did not qualify for other reasons.

The program, which has been conducted twice previously in Baton Rouge, is designed to remove unsecured and unwanted weapons from the community.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said 71 handguns, rifles and shotguns were turned in to law enforcement officials Saturday with no questions asked in exchange for $4,200 worth of gas cards.

Guns less than .38 caliber were worth a $50 gas card while anything higher than .38 caliber was worth $100, except for assault-style weapons, which were worth $300.

No assault-style weapons of the type Moore said are becoming the weapon of choice for criminals were turned in.

“It’s really for the unsecured guns,” Moore said. “We’re not thinking gangsters will turn in their guns.”

Darrell Boudreaux, of Baton Rouge, brought in a high-powered Japanese sniper rifle that had sat in his work room, gathering dust. His uncle had brought it back from World War II.

Years ago, he converted it into a deer hunting rifle, but never used it. So he decided on Saturday that it was time to part ways with the antique weapon.

“Well, there’s no sense in just letting it sit there,” Boudreaux, 67, said as he sat in his truck under a canopy waiting for law enforcement officials to check the weapon and hand him a $50 gas card.

A Port Allen man turned in two weapons to keep them out of reach of his grandchildren.

“I didn’t have any more used for them and I wanted to get them out the house,” Joe Daigle, 65, said.

Matt Pryor drove to the center from Ethel with an old Spanish revolver he found at a friend’s house.

“I thought it was gonna be worth some money,” he said while sitting in his red pickup. “I guess it’ll be worth $50.”

But Pryor was turned away because the gun was missing several parts, including the bullet chamber, and could not be fired.

Baton Rouge Police Sgt. Herbert “Tweety” Anny, the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project director, said the program is part of BRAVE’s community outreach efforts.

“In the past, we’ve had several unfortunate accidents involving unsecured weapons in particular residences in this area so in an effort to try to reduce some of these accidents from happening again, we’re giving people gas for guns,” Anny said.

Authorities collected more than 420 weapons at the first two “Guns for Gas” programs in 2010 and 2011.

Over the years, cities such as New Orleans, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles have held similar gun buyback programs that have collected thousands of firearms.

The program was sponsored by numerous local law enforcement agencies, BRAVE, the East Baton Rouge Parish city-parish government and the Circle K Corp.

The event began at 1 p.m., but vehicles were lined up well beforehand.

One by one, vehicles pulled up under the church’s canopy where either a police officer or sheriff’s deputy would take the weapon or weapons in the car and bring them to a nearby table where an official would check the serial number and give the gun a thorough once-over before depositing it in a box.

Some people even dropped of old ammunition that they could not use anymore.

During the event, two men walked up on the sidewalk in front of Living Faith with signs saying they would pay cash for guns. They stayed for a few minutes without any takers before walking to a nearby Cracker Barrel.

All the guns will be taken to the State Police Crime Lab where they will be tested to see if they have been used in any unsolved criminal cases and to also see if they have been reported stolen.

Guns that were not stolen or not used in any unsolved cases will be destroyed, Moore said.

Among those bringing in a gun was Tina Johnson, whose mother recently died. She said she wasn’t comfortable keeping the .38-caliber handgun that had belonged to her mother.

“I always tried to get her to get rid of it, but she wanted it for protection,” Johnson said. “She had other guns that were stolen from her in the past.”