UPDATE: LaGrange gun buyback ends after overwhelming turnout, 228 guns collected

Published 6:02 pm Thursday, October 12, 2023

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The LaGrange Police Department gun buyback was an overwhelming success on Thursday, getting more than two hundred firearms off the streets.

Capt. Karen Sanders advised that a total of 228 firearms were collected during the buyback.

As of just after 3 p.m., 135 guns had been turned over to police in exchange for $150, when LPD announced the buyback would end when funds were depleted.  The department had planned to accept the guns until 8 p.m. but ended around 5:45 p.m. The original plan was also to exchange the firearms for $150 gift cards, but officials were unable to buy enough gift cards to supply demand.

LPD Lt. Chris Pritchett said people were waiting to trade the guns in well before they started. The gift cards only lasted about 15 minutes, he said.

All types of guns were accepted, regardless of condition. The majority of the firearms accepted were handguns but quite a few long guns were received as well, said Master Detective Adam Blane.

The residents who turned turned in the guns were diverse, he said. 

“Young and old, men and women, white and black, all races brought guns in,” Blane said.

The number of guns exchanged was way more than officers expected. Blane said he brought a small file box down for the guns earlier in the morning, which obviously was not enough.

“This was nowhere near the turnout we expected. Honestly, we were planning for five to 10 at best,” Pritchett said.

Pritchett said he had checked similar gun buybacks and was not expecting these numbers.

“I looked on Google and just checked out other buyback programs around the country, and this is not normal. This is not a normal turnout. The normal turnout is what we expected,” Pritchett said.

The gun buyback was originally suggested by Mayor Willie Edmondson in response to the recent increase in shooting deaths in LaGrange, especially among local youth. The firearm exchange is just one of several ongoing anti-violence initiatives that the city is trying in response to the uptick in youth violence.

The buyback has clearly exceeded expectations. What remains to be seen is if it will help with the shooting violence epidemic.

“I don’t expect to see an immediate change, but this is more guns that are off the streets and out of the hands of criminals, so that’s always a plus,” Pritchett said.

Officers noted that these guns might not have been in the hands of criminals, but they are the same guns that are frequently stolen by criminals and used for nefarious purposes.

Thought the guns were accepted no questions asked, they will be kept for some time to verify they were not stolen or connected to other criminal activity and then ast some point destroyed.