Gifts 4 Guns attempts to increase awareness and decrease gun violence
COLUMBIA - An event in Columbia today addressed the prevalence of gun violence and misuse of firearms by offering gift cards in exchange for guns.
Gift 4 Guns offered local Mid-Missourians the opportunity to turn in guns, no questions asked.
In Boone County alone, there were 101 reported firearm assaults this year, and 7,556 statewide, according to Missouri State Highway Patrol statistics. The first year reported is 2001, with a total of 4,368 firearm assaults. That is a difference of 3,188 in 16 years with a population of roughly the same size.
Event founder Cory Crosby was shocked by the numbers he saw, and said everyone has a role to play in making their community safer.
"Initially, my concern and reason for doing the gun buyback was some of the recent shootings in Columbia," Crosby said. "Not too long after that, I was doing some research and stumbled on some information and statistics about Missouri leading in child deaths too - from people leaving their firearms around and not securing them safely." He said this was an eye-opener for him and encouraged him to raise awareness.
One of their biggest goals, Crosby said, is to educate people on gun safety and raise awareness of the issue of accidental injuries and improper or misuse of guns.
"I think that makes a big difference and will impact the number of accidental deaths, senseless shootings and senseless misuses of firearms," Crosby said.
He said its one step to bring the community together on an issue that has the potential to affect anyone and everyone. From children to adults, Crosby said it is important to educate people on proper gun use - how to disarm and secure them, in addition to how and when to properly use a firearm.
"We don't have to sit back and let it happen," Crosby said. "There are things we can do to continue making Columbia safer."
Event volunteers have all been approved by the city, he said, and the Columbia Police Department has agreed to safely destroy all the guns collected today. Because the Armory Sports Center is city property, firearms are prohibited. Crosby met with people at the Armory from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to discuss gun safety, while all guns were collected at a separate, secure location.
By 11 a.m. this morning, Crosby said there were over 20 guns turned in. He started an online funding page that helped raise funds for the gun exchange program, and said money came from within the community and from outside individuals that wanted to support his efforts.
"We explain to people that this is to protect them, to follow the city rules, and to make today successful," Crosby said. The mission of today was simple - to get more guns off the street.
"Moving forward, I would like to make this something that's available to people so they have an option to turn in their gun and get a little extra cash in their pocket," Crosby said.
Another aspect of gun violence he said he hopes to address with this event today is guns stolen from vehicles. Crosby said the number of stolen guns has soared this year, and a friend of his chimed in with a personal story involving an car break-in and theft. In cases like this, a gun falls into the wrong hands and can be very dangerous.
"I think we all have to do a better job in securing weapons, thinking before we use weapons, and the police need to do a better job on making sure cars aren't getting broken into, but the people who leave them in there also need to be more aware," Crosby said. "There's a chance someone can go in your car, take your gun and commit a crime with it" This wont be solved by one person or group, Crosby said, but will take a collective effort.
Last month in Boone County there were 156 firearm assaults, but for the month of December, that number has dropped to five. Comparing 2016 to 2017 state totals shows a slight decrease as well, although the final numbers for the year will not be available until January.