By Rachel Christian
Local leaders and law enforcement officials are teaming up Friday for a gun buyback program with a special focus on semi-automatic rifles.
Gift Cards for Guns is the latest effort by the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office and County Commissioner Viviana Janer to get pistols, shotguns and rifles off the street by offering residents a $50 gift card for gas or Walmart when they turn in those weapons.
“I am proud to do my part in making our community safer, by providing a safe,
no-questions-asked way for residents to dispose of their unwanted firearms,” Janer said.
Both the Sheriff’s Office and the Kissimmee Police Department have hosted similar events in the past, but this year offers a new incentive.
Individuals who turn in an AR-15 or AR-10 semiautomatic rifles will receive two gift cards instead of one.
Discussions of banning the AR-15 and other assault style weapons gained momentum earlier this year when a shooter used the gun to murder 17 people in Parkland, Fla.
The AR-15 was also the primary weapon used at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, a movie theater in Colorado, Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, a church in Texas and the music festival shooting in Las Vegas.
Most recently, Travis Reinking, 29, used an AR-15 style weapon on April 22 to open fire on a Waffle House in Nashville, killing four people.
Guns turned in during the buyback program will be destroyed. Officers will try to give stolen guns back to their rightful owners.
Similar events are held all across Central Florida each year in conjunction with Crimeline, an anonymous crime tip hotline. Friday’s event is a little different because although it mirrors the Crimeline gun buyback events, it is being independently organized by the County Commission using special grant funds.
The anonymous nature of the event means that any resident can drop off any firearm, no questions asked. Deputies will not check identifications of those who participate in the buyback program.
The Walmart and gas gift cards are funded by the Commissioner’s Betterment Grant money.
Those who wish to turn in firearms should place the weapons in a plastic bag, unloaded and safely secured in the trunk of the vehicle. As drivers enter the drop off location, they are asked to remain in their vehicles until deputies remove the guns from the trunk.
This year’s event will be held from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at La Placita Latina Meat and Produce on 519 E. Vine St. in Kissimmee.