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Citywide buyback's offer of $100 debit card 'a tremendous success'
By MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA
The Chicago Sun-Times
CHICAGO, Ill. — The gun buyback wasn't supposed to start until 10 a.m. Saturday, but by 9 a.m., the line of people with guns in hand at the Rev. Michael Pfleger's St. Sabina Church in Auburn-Gresham was already stretching down the block.
So the Chicago Police officers who were there started taking the guns -- 40 by 9:10 a.m.
And so it went citywide.
The "Don't Kill a Dream, Save a Life" campaign -- offering $100 debit cards to anyone who turned in a gun Saturday, no questions asked -- exceeded all expectations, racking up 3,000 guns and still counting by Saturday night.
"Any one of these guns can be used in a crime, can be used to kill a police officer, kill a child, kill someone in this community. So for us, getting them off the street has been a tremendous success," Police Supt. Phil Cline said at Greater Salem Baptist Church in Englewood, where residents turned in 250 guns.
PROGRAM 'GIVES A NUDGE'
The program, held at 23 churches across the city, was funded in part by a $10,000 Jewel-Osco grant and co-sponsored by Chase Bank. Every gun recovered will undergo forensic testing, then be destroyed.
The program was initiated in the wake of three tragic shootings.
In Englewood on March 3, Starkesia Reed, 14, was killed in her living room by an AK-47 bullet. Eight days later, Siretha White, 10, was killed when a TEC-9 bullet crashed into her aunt's home during Siretha's birthday party. And on April 4, Terrell Bosley, an 18-year-old church musician, was killed in the parking lot of a Roseland church.
"A program like this gives a nudge to someone who's not quite sure the right thing to do, someone who wants to get rid of a gun but doesn't want to walk in a police station," said Pfleger, whose church collected the most guns, 500.
On the West Side, WGCI-FM (107.5) broadcast live from People's Church of the Harvest, 3570 W. 5th Ave., where a festive spirit reigned as 200 guns were turned in.
"It's been really, really a moving day," disc jockey Joe Soto said.
Even police -- who had set a goal of 500 guns -- were surprised by how many were turned in. They collected TEC-9s, AK-47s, AK-15s, sawed-off shotguns, antique rifles, ammunition and more.
'I HOPE YOU WILL STILL TURN THEM IN'
In a 1994 buyback, 1,100 guns were turned in for $100 gift certificates to Foot Locker stores.
"It's just beyond our expectations. We're blessed," said Denise Reed, Starkesia's mother, while visiting the West Side site. "We've lost a child. It's like losing a limb.
"I would just say to all those who still have guns, beyond this gift certificate exchange: I hope you will still turn them in so no other families have to go through what we've gone through."
Illinois: More than 3,000 guns turned in