Brannon Richardson said he felt relief when he gave his gun to police on Saturday; now it seems like he is not part of the problem.
Richardson said his dad gave him a rifle years ago, and it had been sitting there. He had to figure out what to do with it when moving from place to place. He said he was a safe owner and hadn't had ammunition for years, but that he saw the buyback program as an easy way to pass on the responsibility of a gun.
"I honestly think guns are for cowards," Richardson said. "I can now say, as of 30 seconds ago, I'm no longer a gun owner."
As Salt Lake City's gun buyback event began on Saturday people were lined up under a few tents for shade to give their unwanted guns to the city in exchange for a $50 or $100 gift card to Maverik or Walmart. The line died down after about a half-hour, but people were still coming to exchange their guns for some gallons of gas. The police officers didn't ask any questions or require any identification.
Mike Brown, Salt Lake City's police chief, said the goal of the event was to raise awareness of the number of guns in Salt Lake City that don't need to be there.
"This is a small thing that we're doing that really could have a huge impact on somebody's life, because one gun, one bullet can have a tragic impact for somebody," Brown said.
He said a lot of people are voluntarily bringing in the guns because they don't know how to dispose of them and don't want them themselves. He said people at any time can bring unwanted guns to the police station to give them away.
"There are guns out there that shouldn't be on the streets," Brown said. "It's a good thing to get these guns off the street, and we'll continue to do this as we move forward."
Brown shared on Twitter that four of the guns that were turned in had previously been reported stolen.
He said even a legally owned gun can end up being used in a conflict when it shouldn't be, something that happened at least twice in Salt Lake City in the last week. He said he hopes the gun buyback event and awareness from it prevent homicides.
Brown said they haven't done anything like this since the 1990s, and the attendance showed it is something people are looking for, and they may do it again. To pay for the gift cards, the Police Foundation donated $5,000 and another $5,000 came from donations.
In 2020 and 2021 more guns were purchased than in recent years, Brown said, so there are likely more first-time gun owners right now than before. About 40% of American homes have guns, he said.
More guns on the street means there are more that are not stored properly and could be stolen or cause an accident, Brown said.
"If you have that weapon and you don't think you need it and you'd like to not be responsible for it, bring it down," he said.
He said owning a gun is a responsibility and suggested gun owners should lock and secure their guns, know how to properly use them, and not leave them in the car overnight.
The guns that are turned in to the police station will be disposed of. Brown said they will not see the street again, something that was important to multiple people who gave their guns up.
Is a gun buyback the only option?
Before reaching the tents where police were collecting guns, most people walked past individuals offering to buy the guns for cash instead of a gift card. Some of these people were hoping to talk about the benefits of owning and carrying a gun and others were looking to get a new gun or a gun they could sell and make a profit.
One group, Utah 2A Alliance, was hoping to take pistols that they bought, clean them and give them to teachers and school employees at a free concealed carry class they are hosting July 9. The alliance is a coalition of Utah firearm education organizations and firearm businesses.
Clark Aposhian said concealed carry classes for teachers they’ve hosted over the last 10 years have had hundreds of people in attendance. He said schools in Utah are defended, and he wants the public to know schools are not soft targets and there are people carrying guns.
Aposhian said 19% of Utah citizens have a concealed carry permit and that arming people in schools is working because there have not been school mass shootings in the state or any accidental deaths from people concealed carrying in schools.
Bill Pedersen, who was also at the Utah 2A Alliance tent, said that he was hoping to give people options and help them get a little more money than the city is offering while also trying to educate them about gun ownership.
Utah 2A Alliance offered about $25 more than the police, although they said they would pay more for a weapon that was more valuable. More people opted to give their weapons in exchange for a gift card, but the Utah 2A Alliance had bought about 12 guns in the first hour of the event, and a few other people on the sidewalk bought some guns from people intending to give guns to police as well.