As demand continues, residents swap guns for cash at second Durham County gun buyback

Angelina Katsanis/akatsanis@newsobserver.com
·4 min read

The line of cars stretched three blocks as Durham County’s second gun buyback in four months began Saturday morning.

The event’s purpose was to encourage responsible gun ownership and get guns off the street, said Durham County Sheriff Clarence F. Birkhead.

Durham’s first buyback event was held in April. Then, the department netted just over 100 firearms before running out of money, The N&O has reported.

After the first event, community interest increased, Birkhead told The N&O.

“People, even after the first buyback, continued to call us and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got guns that belonged to my grandfather, he’s now passed away,’” Birkhead said. “Or, ‘We don’t want guns in the house. We have small kids now. When are you going to do another one?’”

Like the first time, the event was held at two locations — Mt. Vernon Baptist Church and Durham Memorial Stadium.

“This is a good way ... for people who perhaps have more guns than they have safe storage for to get rid of their their guns so they’re not in the hands of minors,” said JaVaughn Troxler, who is the Youth and Young Adult Minister at Mt. Vernon.

Troxler and Birkhead both said they support private gun ownership and that responsible gun ownership includes having a plan to turn in unused weapons.

“It’s all about the safety of the community and church members,” Troxler said.

The sheriff’s office offered $100 for long guns, $150 for handguns and $250 for assault rifles. All types were collected, said Birkhead, including some vintage weapons and some AR-15s.

The department budgeted about $10,000 for the buyback, The N&O previously reported. About half came as a private donation from a local business.

Sheriff’s deputies approached each car to collect and inspect each weapon, record the serial number and hand out a Visa gift card.

The event was pitched to Durham County residents but drew gun owners from all around the Triangle. Most waited in line for two to three hours.

Some people came to the buyback after finding themselves the reluctant owners of family guns.

Mark Albert of Morrisville has never fired the gun he inherited decades ago.

“I’m here to turn in my gun and get some money,” he said.

Before the buyback, Albert kept the gun in a closet in his home. This felt safe in the short term, Albert said, since he doesn’t have any children.

The buyback, he said, made him feel safer.

“It was fine where it was,” he said, “but I guess it could get stolen.”

David Scott, 47, attended the event to settle family affairs.

A relative died and left behind a gun, said Scott, who lives in Durham. The buyback gave his family a safe place to get rid of it.

“Family members don’t want the firearms, and they specifically do not want them circulated back into the population,” Scott said.

The event also drew longtime gun owners looking for a change.

Saturday was Brandon Silas’ first time at a gun buyback. The Apex resident, 28, arrived early to turn in two guns before funding ran out.

Silas’ guns were getting old, he said. Besides, he said, didn’t want his 4-year-old in the house with his double-barreled shotgun.

“It’s a quick, safe, easy way for disposing of them,” said Silas.

Darris Lindsey, of Raleigh, made a last-minute decision to bring in his gun.

Lindsey’s 12-year-old recently moved in with him. He said she factored into his choice.

“It was not being used,” said Lindsey, 40, “and I have a daughter now.”

Lindsey said the program made him feel safer because it could stop unused guns from “floating around” his community.

“I don’t need [my gun], and I don’t want it to get into the wrong hands,” Lindsey said.

Brenda Mickens, 55, arrived early to turn in her 9 mm gun. She didn’t mind the two-hour wait.

“Once we were in, we were in,” said Mickens, who lives in Raleigh.

While the buyback served its purpose for Mickens, she doesn’t think it’ll make Durham safer overall.

“The people who are turning these weapons in are probably people who are not going to use them,” she said. “I think it’s a good opportunity, but it seemed like it could be a little more efficient.”

Some residents hoped to use the buyback programs to get all guns out of their homes. Others wanted to narrow down their collections.

Gerry Fryt, who lives in Wake Forest, previously participated in two gun buyback programs in Florida. These stops paid more, up to $250 per gun, said Fryt, 78.

This time, Fryt brought three guns.

“They’ve been sitting around for 20 years, and I haven’t fired them,” he said.

Fryt thinks this will be his last gun buyback, though he has more weapons at home.

“I’m about down to what I’m going to keep,” he said.