Within four hours of its launch, a Tampa Police no-questions-asked gun buyback event collected 1,000 weapons.
Saturday’s program, held at two locations in the city, was slated to last from 10 a.m. to 5p.m., but ended hours early when the sponsorship money ran out.
The event was underwritten by $100,000 from anonymous community members who donated following the mass shooting at a Texas elementary school last month, according to police.
Participants were handed $100 for their weapons as part of the department’s effort to get guns off the street and out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.
“The level of interest clearly shows that there are still some people who want to safely get rid of the guns they no longer want, and we will start planning our next event in the very near future,” Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor said in a news release.
Saturday’s buyback operated as a drive-through event at the parking lot at the southeast corner of Bird Street at Interstate 275 and at the West Tampa Community Center at 2103 N Rome Ave. Participants remained in their cars with the unloaded weapons in the trunk or the rear of the car.
The number of different types of guns collected — shotguns, rifles and handguns, for example — had not yet been tallied, police spokesman Eddy Durkin said.
The city hasn’t held a gun buyback event since 2015, when it received $50,000 from the Tampa Bay Lightning for that purpose and paid participants $50 per weapon.
After a seven year hiatus, the buyback program returned as gun violence —especially guns in the hands of kids — gains renewed attention in the city and the nation. O’Connor told the Tampa Bay Times she was recently approached by a community member at a gun violence discussion in Robles Park.
“We need a gun buyback,” O’Connor recalls the woman saying.
So far this year, police have seized 253 guns in East Tampa alone, O’Connor said. They have also investigated reports of dozens of guns stolen from unlocked vehicles.
Tampa Police have not yet released details on the next buyback event.