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GUN OWNERS TRADE IN THE FIREPOWER

For years, the gun lay wrapped in a towel on the top shelf of France Newkirk's linen closet. That was where her husband put it before he died. That was where it stayed.

When she moved to University Village, a senior living community, she took the gun with her and put it in her new linen closet. "I just thought that's where it's supposed to be," the 89-year-old grandmother said.

On Saturday, however, Newkirk turned her pistol in to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. In exchange, she got a pair of Nike Shox sneakers worth about $100. "I do a lot of walking," she said as a deputy fit the shoes on her feet and tied the laces.

Mrs. Newkirk might not have been the person the Sheriff's Office had in mind when it conceived the guns-for-sneakers event, held Saturday at the University Area Community Center on N 22nd Street.

The event was meant to take in guns that might otherwise be used in street crimes. But by afternoon, the trickle of residents coming to turn in guns were mostly middle-class, older people.

Jim Dobson, 53, turned in four antique rifles. Instead of sneakers, he claimed a gift certificate.

About 1 p.m., the mobile command center's white board recorded the day's tally thus far: guns - 15; BB guns - three.

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