Many San Diego African-American ministers are coming together in mid-December to sponsor their fourth annual no-questions-asked gun exchange, in which weapons can be turned in for gift cards. The United African American Ministerial Action Committee (UAAMAC) will sponsor the exchange, now in its fourth year, which it founded to get guns that could be used in crimes off the streets.
On December 19th from 8 am to 1 pm, the exchange will take place at the United African American Ministerial Action Council headquarters in San Diego. Those bringing weapons must unload them before they can be exchanged.
During the first year of the exchange, leaders and members of communities from across San Diego gave to UAAMAC, so that the organization could give people gift cards.Now the program is co-sponsored by Councilman Tony Young, a variety of law enforcement agencies and the foundation of football star Junior Seau.
Gerald Brown, who is the executive director of UAAMAC said the exchange draws attention to how many guns are loosely available within homes to children, or that could eventually be used in crimes such as burglaries.
“People break into houses and guns are often stolen, because they weren’t in a secure location,” Brown said. “These things happen and in these times whatever we can do to make our homes and communities safer, we will do.”
During last year’s exchange, anyone who turned in a handgun or rifle received a $100 gift card. Anyone turning in an assault rifle received a $200 gift card, according to UAAMAC.
In the past three years, the exchange program has helped gather more than 530 firearms that would otherwise have been on the streets, according to the organization.
Brown said the exchange started four years ago after two young people in San Diego were murdered. Leaders with the community came together to propose preventive social actions against street crime.
“After the murders, Bishop Ikenna A. Kokayi made a plea to San Diego’s leaders to not just do what they always have done, like with marching,” Brown said, “but to do something proactive. That proactive idea was to basically buy guns; give gift cards in exchange guns.”
Brown said the exchange greatly impacted gun violence within the community. “The first season following, there were no gun related youth of violence within our community, and so that continues to be our focus now,” he told theGrio.
In fact, Brown said he not only saw the impact that the exchange had on decreasing gun violence within San Diego, but he also saw how the gift cards could provide money to those in need.
“One year a young lady had brought a weapon that was left by her husband who had passed away,” Brown said. “An officer went and got the weapon and we gave her a gift card. Then, a few minutes later, I just happened to see the lady at grocery store when I went to go buy more gift cards. The lady had taken the gift card to buy some groceries. It’s great that we can help other people in many ways.”
The exchange has saved lives and provided greater opportunities for many, but Brown said UAAMAC still needs more donations to get give more gift cards.
“We are hoping that the exchange will grow,” Brown said. “We are really trying to get the word out that we still need donations, because we want to take as many weapons off the street as possible and make San Diego a safe community for all.”
Although more gun exchanges similar to UAAMAC’s have been created in other cities, Brown said in the future he hopes that every major city and every small country town can have them in order to make the nation safer.