Durham exchanging Visa gift cards for handguns and rifles on Saturday :: WRAL.com

— Two gun buyback events in Durham on Saturday helped people who needed to safely get rid of their firearms.

Visa gift cards were given out for working long guns ($100), handguns ($150) and assault rifles ($200).

A reminder from the Durham County Sheriff’s Office read, “All weapons must be unloaded and laying in plain view in your vehicle. When you arrive at the location, law enforcement will give instructions as to the process of retrieving and securing all weapons.”

The Durham County Sheriff’s office said 295 guns were brought in Saturday.

Of those 295 guns, 10 were military style weapons.

This was the second gun buyback event in Durham in the last four months. In April, nearly 100 firearms were collected.

“I was pleased to see our community turn out in great numbers,” Sheriff Clarence F. Birkhead said. “We provided gift cards to those who turned in weapons, and we ran out. This is a good problem to have. I look forward to continuing to work with community partners including Judge Pat Evans to get guns off our streets and away from the hands of criminals.”

Birkhead said the sheriff’s office runs the serial numbers of the guns submitted during Saturday’s event to determine if a gun is stolen.

Earlier this week, several police departments around the state told WRAL News they’ve seized so many guns in recent years that they’re running out of room to store them. They want to change a 2013 state law that forbids them from destroying most firearms.

Birkhead said the Durham County Sheriff’s Office is currently holding more than 1,500 guns. He said the sheriff’s office is experiencing storage problems like the Durham Police Department and other law enforcement agencies across the state.

“We have a normal capacity of just shy of 500 [guns], so we are stacking weapons on top of weapons,” Birkhead said. “[Around] 300 weapons are being held that are related to domestic violence cases that either have not been prosecuted yet or we removed from the home for safety reasons.”

Birkhead said the buybacks are an exception to the 2013 law. He said the unique part of gun buyback is people are compensated for the weapons voluntarily surrendered to the sheriff’s office.

Why local police are stuck with thousands of guns

“In about 90 days, we are able to petition a judge after we have run all the checks to make sure they are not stolen or tied to another crime, so we do all of those checks through our data system and once the weapon has been cleared, in 90 days, as I said, we can petition a judge for an order of destruction,” Birkhead said. “That’s what we have done in the past. It works, but again, it only gets at those weapons that we retrieve during the gun buyback.

“The other weapons, we are still bound by that 2013 law … Hopefully, the legislature may take that up in the coming months, that we can relax some of those restrictions, but right now, we are certainly bound by that law.”

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