OSPD to Host Gun Giveback Program June 3
On June 3, The Old Saybrook Police Department (OSPD) is holding an anonymous gun and ammunition turn-in to get unwanted and illegal guns and ammo off the streets. The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 3, at Old Saybrook Town Hall.
Gun giveback programs allow for people who have guns they no longer want — be it one they purchased on their own or one they came into possession of through other means — to be safely, easily, and legally disposed of.
At the event, illegal guns and magazines may also be turned in to OSPD with no questions asked. Typically, if a person donates a gun and a subsequent check reveals the weapon to be stolen, the person is arrested. With amnesty, however, the person would not be arrested for possessing the gun. Old Saybrook Police Chief Michael Spera said turned-in guns would be taken to the state crime lab to be analyzed to see if the gun had been used in any serious crimes. It would then be destroyed.
Spera explained that it’s not uncommon for people to come into contact with guns or ammo that they don’t want.
“It happens a lot of times when someone is cleaning out a house, and they come across a firearm and are not sure what to do. We’re advertising that we are here to take the guns for them,” Spera said.
Spera emphasized that the event is a giveback program, not a buyback program. In other words, there will be no monetary value exchanged for the gun; the department is simply asking for people to turn in unwanted guns.
“We’re hoping if we advertise, maybe people will come,” Spera said.
The idea of holding this kind of program was first broached at an Aug. 23, 2022, Board of Selectman meeting. At that meeting, Selectman Matt Pugliese suggested the town look into doing a gun buyback program.
“After the events in Uvalde, the police department, school district, [the] Board of Selectmen and Police Commission had been in communication regarding our current operations and protocols for security,” Pugliese told the Harbor News last year. “Chief Spera made a few possible recommendations for some other ‘low-hanging fruit-type’ possible steps. I felt that it was worth pursuing and continuing the conversation to take action on a gun buyback or giveback program — however simple — in the interest of public safety. I felt that was our responsibility as town leaders,” he continued.
Eventually, it was decided to move forward with a giveback program rather than a buyback program. “I think it takes the politics out of what I think is a good public safety mechanism. The main goal is getting unwanted guns off the streets,” Spera said.
At a Board of Finance meeting in 2022, Spera said that while he thinks buybacks are a public safety mechanism and not political action, it might not be received well due to gun rights being a hyper-partisan issue.
Spera said at that time that if the board approved funding for the buyback program, it would then have to be approved at a town meeting. Spera said he feared that that town meeting would turn into a political debate about gun rights ahead of the midterm elections in 2022 and detract from what was happening in Old Saybrook.
Rather than have that happen, Spera asked for a compromise where the town runs the giveback program with no monetary rewards attached. The town can evaluate the success of the program, and if it’s felt that a monetary reward would bolster turnout, the issue can be revisited.
“We’re hoping the event will be a success and that people come,” Spera said. “We can analyze after if maybe we do need to offer that incentive if we do an event again in the future,” Spera said.
Spera also pointed out that people who come into possession of unwanted guns do not need to wait for a giveback or buyback program and can bring them to the police to be taken care of.
“We will take unwanted guns at the department 24/7. If someone does not want to touch the gun, they can call us, and we will send an officer to come pick up the gun as well,” Spera said.