MEMPHIS, Tenn. — To reduce the number of weapons on its streets, this city will trade gas cards and professional basketball tickets for guns in a "judgment-free" program.
The city and its partners on Saturday plan to hand over a $50 Mapco gas card for each gun turned in. The limit is three guns, or $150 worth of gas cards, per person. Those who surrender guns also will receive two free tickets to a preseason Memphis Grizzlies game.
"We’re doing everything we can to get guns off the streets," said Memphis Police Department director Toney Armstrong.
The guns will be taken on a "no questions asked" basis and will be destroyed. The weapons will not be tested or inspected to determine if they were used in a crime, according to police department spokeswoman Karen Rudolph.
"This is a judgment-free zone," Armstrong said. "You can just turn in the gun and simply walk away. We just want the guns."
Mayor A C Wharton said 1,600 guns were reported stolen in Memphis last year.
"Those guns didn’t just evaporate and disappear," he said.
"Somebody knows where those guns are. It may be a mother who found it under the bed or in a shoe in the closet, but she’s torn between snitching on her son and getting that gun out. We want to get that gun out and get it off the street."
Armstrong said guns have been used in 87 percent of the city’s more than 90 homicides so far this year.
Councilman Myron Lowery started a program called "Gifts for Guns" in Memphis in 1994. Six events since then have brought in more than 2,000 firearms.
Last year, Baton Rouge, La., took in 165 guns through a gun buy-back program. Baton Rouge officials said Memphis’ programs inspired them. In Nashville, around 260 guns were collected in a "Gas for Guns" program, and Los Angeles has held four such events, collecting 1,673 firearms earlier this year and 2,000 in 2011.
(Contact Amos Maki of The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., at firstname.lastname@example.org.)