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Once again, guns focus of buy back

The Carrollwood substation joins bay area agencies in buying back guns for $50 in store certificates, the third year of the Cease Fire Gun Buy Back.

That sawed-off shotgun you left in the garage could be stolen by a burglar. And that semi-automatic handgun collecting dust on a closet shelf could be deadly if discovered by a curious child.

It's easy enough to throw an old stuffed bear in the nearest trash bin, but that is not the best way to get rid of an unwanted gun. Even if it were legally sold to a responsible buyer, how can you be sure that AK47 won't end up in the wrong hands?

A group of concerned citizens and community organizations is offering one solution, called the Cease Fire Gun Buy Back.

On Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., people in the Carrollwood area can take unwanted guns to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's substation at 14343 N Dale Mabry Highway and swap them for $50 gift certificates to Beall's department stores, Beall's outlet stores or Winn Dixie Marketplace.

Last year's event netted 1,926 guns in Hillsborough, Pasco, Manatee and Sarasota counties. The Carrollwood community sheriff's center collected 164 guns, which was more than any other site, said Hillsborough County Deputy Cpl. Sankar Montoute, a crime prevention officer.

"This is the ideal way to get rid of an unwanted gun and receive something back for it," Montoute said.

This year, Pinellas and Polk counties will join the program.

While there are other gun buy back programs nationwide, Cease Fire is a Tampa Bay gun safety program in its third year. It includes the annual gun buy back, a firearm safety classroom program for third graders and an evening community education program for families.

Nancy Crane, the coordinator of Cease Fire in Tampa, said this is not an anti-gun movement. She said Cease Fire was established to educate the public about gun safety and provide a mechanism to get unwanted guns off the streets.

"Our goal is to reduce injuries and deaths due to firearm violence, particularly among children," Crane said.

Cease Fire raises money from corporate sponsors and through individual donations in order to buy the $50 gift certificates at a discounted rate.

To eliminate any discouragement about turning in the guns, the coordinators have said no one will be required to give any information about their identities. The guns will be tracked, however, and any guns reported stolen will be returned to their rightful owners.

The other guns will be destroyed.

_ To reach Tim Grant call 226-3471, or e-mail him at grantsptimes.com.

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