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'We Have to Get Rid of It': Texas Residents Surrender Guns

A police officer inspects weapons during a gun buyback program in Houston, Texas, Feb. 19, 2023.

On the back seat of Marilyn Bragg's car are her late husband's five guns.

"I don't want that at home, I don't even know how to shoot," said the Houston, Texas, retiree before handing them over to the authorities.

In this American state, bruised by shootings, initiatives are multiplying to offer residents a chance to get rid of their pistols, rifles, and semi-automatic weapons, in complete safety.

"I have grandchildren, I don't want them to have access to that," Bragg said as a long line of cars winds its way to an arms dump site.

At the end of the line, drivers are asked to leave their weapons in their trunk or on the back seat for inspection.

Specialized police then approach and check that the weapons are unloaded.

They often find more than a dozen weapons in the vehicle.

"I think it's a great program," said Stuart Wolf, with 11 guns in the back of his truck. "There is really no other safe way than this to part with it," said the 60-year-old.

A total of 793 weapons will be handed over to law enforcement by the end of the day Saturday.

In exchange, participants are given vouchers: $50 for a weapon that no longer works, $100 for a rifle, and $200 for a semi-automatic rifle, the weapon used in so many shootings in the United States.

"We already have enough weapons, and there are some that we put down that we don't need," said Kenneth Blackmon, alongside his wife, Loretta.

"So why keep them? We have to get rid of them," the 69-year-old man said, handing over seven weapons. Especially since thefts of firearms are recurrent and dangerous, he said.

"Gun thefts have increased 16% over the past 10 years," said Rodney Ellis, an official of the county that surrounds Houston.

A police officer secures guns to be transported in the back of a truck during a gun buyback program in Houston, Texas, Feb. 18, 2023.
A police officer secures guns to be transported in the back of a truck during a gun buyback program in Houston, Texas, Feb. 18, 2023.

In Texas, shootings are a daily occurrence.

"Since 2009, more people have died in deadly shootings in Texas than in any other U.S. state," Ellis said.

According to figures from the FBI, in 2020, the state's violent crime rate — 446.5 cases per 100,000 population — was significantly higher than the national average, which is 398.5.

One example, among many others: a few days ago, a person was killed and three others were injured during an altercation in a shopping center in El Paso.

The tragedy happened just steps away from where a young white supremacist killed 23 people at a supermarket popular with the Hispanic community in 2019.

Texas will be marked forever by the massacre in Uvalde, when an 18-year-old man entered an elementary school and killed 19 children and two teachers.

This U.S. state of 30 million is also one where it is easiest to obtain a weapon.

The carrying of weapons is authorized there without restriction, in the name of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

But for Ellis, the county official, the framers of the Constitution, in the 18th century, could never have imagined the modernity of today's firearms.

"So until we manage to change the mentality and we arrive at a reasonable framework for firearms in this country, this type of initiative is the kind of thing that we have to do."