OLD SAYBROOK — The town is hosting a voluntary gun “giveback” event in June for residents to turn in unwanted weapons.
Police Chief Michael Spera said during a Police Commission meeting Monday that the department was looking to take in guns or ammunition that were sitting unused in people’s homes.
“What we’re specifically targeting in Old Saybrook are those folks who maybe have had a loved one pass on and they’re left with the old gun, the old revolver, the old pistol left in the house, or shotguns or ammunition,” he said.
Spera added he was concerned that unused guns sitting in a home could be stolen if the house was burglarized.
The town’s Board of Selectmen has been discussing the idea since August, when Selectman Matt Pugliese proposed allocating up to $7,500 to “buy back” firearms and ammunition from residents, as Harbor News reported. Pugliese said at a Board of Finance meeting in September that the idea came up in discussions about school and community safety after the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, last May.
Spera said the town of Guilford held a privately funded gun buyback program and had collected around 200 guns. Pugliese said taking back the guns could keep them from falling into the hands of children or someone who does not have a permit.
“That’s one accident that we don’t need to have,” Pugliese told the Board of Finance.
But the finance board ultimately decided not to appropriate funding after Spera voiced concern that having the group put aside funding for the buyback program — which would have to be approved at a Town Meeting — could place a political “stigma” on the effort and launch the town into a political debate.
Some finance board members also pushed back against the idea.
Republican Brad Thorpe said he believed that drugs, not guns, were the real problem in the state, and that towns should not be competing with local businesses offering to purchase guns. He also said he believed the majority of guns turned in during buyback programs are broken or rusted.
“We’re getting nothing but garbage guns, and we’re paying for them,” Thorpe said.
Spera said at Monday’s Police Commission meeting that people who turn in illegal weapons or ammunition will have amnesty from prosecution.
“If you’re someone that has a high-capacity magazine at home — you’re not supposed to have it under the law — you can come, turn it in, get it out of your possession without any consequences,” he said.
Ammunition will be sent to the firearms unit and destroyed. Guns will undergo forensic review to make sure they were not used in a serious crime. If a gun was found to be used in a crime, Spera said, it would be sent to the proper agency; if not, the gun would be destroyed. The police department will also be giving out free gun locks.
The gun collection will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 3 at the Old Saybrook Town Hall.