PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — In a partnership between Petersburg City and several faith groups and nonprofits, a gun buyback event was held in the morning Saturday, where City leaders, VSU students and police spoke out about gun violence.
The gun buyback event was held on Saturday, Sept. 30 from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Gillfield Baptist Church. Attendees saw a drive-through line of cars with Petersburg community members making a trade — unwanted guns for gift cards of various value depending on the guns’ condition.
Petersburg residents who traded in guns received gift cards worth $250 for assault rifles, $150 for handguns and shotguns. Inoperable weapons did not receive gift cards.
The gun buyback event comes after multiple local tragedies, including two VSU students who died in separate shootings that occurred a mere nine days apart.
Matthew Gibbs, 19, a VSU student of South Carolina was found on Aug. 24 with gunshot wounds near Walnut Hill Elementary School in late August. In a separate incident, 20-year-old Adrionna West, a VSU student of Chester, was found dead in her car on Sept. 3 on High Street earlier in September.
Fortunately, arrests were made in connection to both shooting incidents of VSU students Gibbs and West.
VSU students in the on-campus male empowerment group, ‘Crown Hem’ showed support during the buyback event.
Nathanial Patterson — a freshman at VSU — spoke out about gun violence in the community.
“No one alone can stop gun violence, with the community supporting us… as you can see, all these people around us helping… it really makes a big difference,” Patterson said.
Back in June, 10-year-old K’Von Morgan was shot while he was in his bedroom at the Pecan Acres apartments on Juniper Road. After being hospitalized and in critical condition, Morgan died due to his injuries. Petersburg Police said that the investigation into the shooting death is ongoing.
Petersburg Bureau of Police Chief Travis Christian spoke about the 10-year-old’s tragic death.
“He was in the comfort of his own home. Situations like that are really important to us because some way, somehow, someone knew something, but more importantly, there was a weapon that possibly was in the hands of the wrong person who recklessly handled that firearm,” Chief Christian added.
Law enforcement leaders said that they’ve seen their share of gun violence across Petersburg and that, hopefully, events like the gun buyback will put an end to the pain many community members have faced.
The Mayor of the City of Petersburg, Samuel Parham, spoke passionately about his support for the event.
“We’re just asking everybody to come on down, bring those guns, get those gift cards. Let’s help get these guns off the street and help keep our communities safe,” Parham said.
Church Pastor George W. Lyons added his thoughts about conflict and how a disagreement can become violent.
“Understand that if you have a difference… beef with someone, it’s not like the movies where a person is alive after they’ve gotten shot. In real life, it doesn’t happen that way.”
Leaders at the gun buyback event stressed that it did not violate anyone’s constitutional rights, but instead intended to shed light on the ongoing issue of gun violence.
“Imagine the stress of people who are always under siege wondering if they’ll make it back home — that’s stressful; wondering if their young person, their loved one is safe, that’s stressful,” added Chief Christian.
Chief Christian called the gun buyback event a success, with dozens of guns turned in, although police have not yet released the total number of guns collected.