PORT RICHEY — Guns often sit inside garages or closets, collecting rust. Owned by a person who has died or no longer uses them, they can become a quandary and a hazard.
That's why the Pasco County Sheriff's Office made gun owners an offer Saturday. In exchange for unwanted weapons and ammunition, sheriff's deputies handed out $25 gift cards as part of a "gun buyback."
In five hours, deputies collected 74 weapons, most of them inexpensive shotguns and Saturday night specials, said Pasco Cpl. Dan Dede, who coordinated the buyback.
Deputies set up a station outside the Jasmine Lakes Community Association, 7137 Jasmine Blvd. When gun owners arrived, sheriff's deputies took the weapons and made sure they were unloaded.
A detective ran the serial number of each gun through a national database to make sure they weren't stolen. No guns came up as stolen, though as Dede said, "People that steal guns don't want to bring them in for a $25 gift card."
Participants, regardless of the number of the guns they turned in, received a gift card redeemable at Publix or Wal-Mart.
The guns and ammunition were taken to a sheriff's facility in Land O'Lakes. The guns will then be sent to a foundry in Jacksonville, where they will be melted down. A bomb squad specialist will melt the ammo into brass and lead using a large drum, nicknamed the "cooker."
One man turned in a 12-gauge shotgun that he said he no longer needed for hunting. He called it a liability.
"It's just one of those things I didn't want to have to worry about," he said.
The Sheriff's Office plans to hold another gun buyback in October on the east side of Pasco County, Dede said.
"It sends a message that we're taking guns off the streets," Dede said. "And it lets the bad guys know that there aren't as many guns out there."
Nomaan Merchant can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6244.