RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond’s highly anticipated — and highly discussed — gun buyback program event at Liberation Church was a huge success, according to a tweet from the city.

City officials said cars began lining up long before the event started at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 20. Event coordinators say about $67,000 was made available for the program, which was to be distributed in the form of gift cards. People could surrender assault weapons for $250 worth of gift cards, handguns for $200, rifles for $150 and inoperable guns for $50. The city offered gift cards to Kroger, Walmart, Foot Locker, and Amazon.

The program was developed in partnership between the City of Richmond, Liberation Church and the Robby Poblete Foundation. California native Pati Navalta started the foundation after losing her son Robby to gun violence in 2014.

Cars parked in Liberation Church’s parking lot as they await officers to evaluate the value of their gun surrenders. (Photo: Sierra Krug, 8News)

“My son was killed because of a gun that was obtained illegally.” Navalta said.

This personal tie to the topic of gun safety prompted Navalta to come all the way from California to Virginia. This inaugural program hasn’t been free of skepticism, Navalta noted a common misconception surrounding gun buyback events is that they are trying to single-handedly solve the issue of gun violence.

Navalta said programs like the one at Liberation Church Saturday morning represent just one step in the fight and it’s impossible to precisely quantify the tangible impact gun buybacks have on protecting a community, which adds to many people’s cynicism. Navalta battles this mindset with the rationale that any amount of guns taken off the streets makes for a safer community.

“What I know without a doubt is the probability of that gun being used to take someone’s life automatically drops to zero the minute it’s surrendered,” Navalta said.

At around 10:30 a.m., half an hour after the event officially began, Petula Burks with the City of Richmond told 8News this buyback appeared busier than initially anticipated. Burks furthered Navalta’s sentiment that the buyback was just one step in what city officials deem the right direction for Richmond. According to leaders, with the crime rate on a small but confirmed incline from last year, any effort to remove guns from the streets could benefit the community in terms of safety.

“We’re all trying to figure out what’s that piece that we can change,” Burks said. “And it’s one piece at a time.”

City leaders remind the community the buyback program is entirely voluntary, nobody was required to attend the event nor sacrifice their guns. Some of the metal from guns surrendered will go to local artists so they can create art from the disposed weaponry.