RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As Richmond’s gun buyback program gets closer, some community activists are questioning if this is the answer to curbing violent crime in the city.

On Saturday, Aug. 20, at Liberation Church, residents can receive up to $250 in gift cards to Kroger, Walmart, Foot Locker or Amazon in exchange for assault weapons, handguns, rifles and even guns that don’t work.

8News spoke to Charles Willis, Executive Director of United Communities Against Crime, who applauded the city’s efforts to curb gun violence, but is concerned this program may not target the people committing violent crimes.

“I’m a community activist…I’m plugged the community,” Willis said. “Those that desire to participate in criminal activity — I don’t believe that they’re going to voluntarily bring them in. I have to be truthful and honest.”  

He said the focus should be on removing illegal guns from the streets. He also mentioned concerns about the gift cards’ ability to match what firearms can be sold for on Richmond’s ‘black market.’

“It’s extremely important to know what the streets are doing,” Willis said. “On the black market, you can buy a firearm practically brand new for $350-$500. If we really want to have a serious gun buyback program, can we compensate and override what’s happening in the black market?” 

This event comes after a deadly weekend in Richmond, where two men were shot to death, including a teenager.

In a call on Monday, Mayor Levar Stoney said the program “is not the panacea, but, just one strategy to remove firearms from the streets.”

“We want to see as many guns as possible off the street,” Stoney said. “If it’s just one gun that’s turned in, I will be happy about that because that’s one gun that can’t be used in a crime.”

Earlier this month, 8News reported on an academic study that found gun violence decreased, at most, 1.3% in the first year in cities with a buyback program versus those without. That number grew to 2.3% when the buyback program extended beyond a year. 

A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office said, “If this buyback saves just one life, it is all worth it.”

The event will take place at the Liberation Church on Midlothian Turnpike at 10 a.m. on Aug. 20.

The buyback will be available for anyone 18 years of age or older. Attendees are asked to place unloaded guns in the trunk of the car when coming to the event.