New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, alongside faithbased groups and the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office, will be hosting the first annual Guns to Gardens National Buyback Day, on Saturday, June 11 at La Mesa Presbyterian Church. Gun owners turning over guns will recieve gift cards to places like Target, Walmart and Amazon and all guns will be dismantled and turned into gardening tools, according to a press release from NMPGV.
The event comes after the mass shooting in Uvalde which left 19 children and two adults dead, according to the Texas Tribune, and the 33 mass shootings that have happened since the shooting in Uvalde, according to ABC News. In 2021 alone, Albuquerque had a record 117 homocides with many victim’s families asking more attention be brought to gun violence in the state by holding memorial events, according to the Associated Press. Albuquerque will be amongst 17 cities nationwide hosting a Guns to Garden buyback event on this day.
The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and no information will be stored about individuals who chose to turn in their guns. Individuals will recieve $250 for assault weapons, $200 for semi-automatic handguns and semi-automatic rifles, and $100 for long guns and pistols, according to a press release from NMPGV.
“This is one tool in our toolbox of gun violence prevention that people have to dismantle these guns, but it also, at the same time, sends a clear message that we can disarm ourselves and forge peace by taking a weapon that is used to kill and forging it into a tool that sustains life. And so there's a philosophical and spiritual element to it, as well as common sense,” co-president of NMPGV Miranda Viscoli said.
Viscoli will drive all disarmed weapons to Mike Martin from Rawtools to turn them into gardening supplies. This is the first year cities across the nation are hosting similar events. Since NMPGV started buybacks in 2016, they have taken 1037 firearms, 30% being semi-automatic handguns, semi-automatic rifles and assault weapons, Viscoli said.
Garrett Vene Klasen is a gun owner and hunter who recently destroyed his 7.62 millimeter semi-automatic rifle and hopes other gun owners will follow suit.
“It became sort of a skeleton in my closet. Everyday people died because of gun violence and when I would look in my gun safe and see that thing that always reminded me that we have a serious serious problem in the United States,” Vene Klasen said.
Vene Klasen said the response from other gun owners in his life have been mixed, with some following suit in destroying their guns and others still holding strong to their beliefs.
“It has empowered a lot of my gun-owning friends to follow my lead and become more vocal and supportive of this issue and gun reform. But some of my friends are sort of brainwashed NRA members who have been brainwashed like me, as a young boy, and told mistruths about the Second Amendment,” Vene Klasen said.
The event on Saturday will serve as an alternative for people wishing to get rid of guns but not sell them and risk them ending up in unsafe hands, according to Viscoli. Vene Klasen said that the Uvalde shooting pushed him over the edge and motivated him to destroy his weapons and thinks that more gun owners need to follow suit.
“I'm a gun owner, and I still own guns. It still is an unregulated tool that needs much more heavy regulation. And it has been bastardized and misinterpreted intentionally by the NRA. And people are dying because of that. And the blood is not (on) the hands of the NRA. The blood is on the hands of the U.S. arms and ammunition manufacturers,” Vene Klasen said, “But it's also … on my hands as an individual gun owner because violence and nonaction are being complicit in the problem.”
Madeline Pukite is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @maddogpukite.