Reporting Christie Ileto
COLUMBIA, Md. (WJZ) — Getting guns off the streets by giving people cold-hard cash. Howard County Police say they’re having their first gun buyback program in almost two decades.
Christie Ileto explains how this mission is personal for one Howard County family.
Mati Chareonvarvaut and his family know firsthand the dangers of an improperly stored gun. And this weekend, they want to make sure what happened to their family doesn’t happen to anyone else.
In the wake of the Aurora, Colo. movie theater shooting and Sandy Hook massacre, Howard County police are doing their part to get guns off the streets with a gun buyback program this weekend.
“It’s not the entire solution, but it’s one solution among many,” said Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.
And for Mati Chareonvarvaut and his family, it’s personal.
“If just one person had taken care of their gun, secured it or maintained the lock, one of those two actions would have just been sufficient from keeping the gun from letting and go and killing my cousin,” he said.
Police say Chareonvarvaut’s cousin–Tunan “Byrd” Wichainaragphong–was accidentally shot at a friend’s house in 2000.
Reports indicate a 15 year-old showing off a .22 caliber rifle accidentally fired a bullet into the teen’s head.
“As he was playing video games, the guy behind the couch swung the rifle just like this,” said Chareonvarvaut.
Police say the buyback program can prevent these tragedies. They’re offering $100 for every firearm, but won’t buy back gun parts of BB guns. Participants can also remain anonymous.
You can turn in up to three guns and get money back, and everyone gets a free gun lock.
“We’re using this as an opportunity to really drive home the message of gun safety and responsible gun ownership,” said William McMahon, Howard County Police Chief.
It’s a message Chareonvarvaut says his family learned the hard way, but hopes other families can benefit from.
“It’s not political, it’s really common sense. You have a gun, you take care of it,” said Chareonvarvaut.
Each gun turned into police will be run through a database to make sure it’s not stolen.
The last time the county had a gun buyback event, less than a handful of guns were turned in.
Saturday’s event will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Dorsey Building in Columbia.