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Hartford Buyback Program To Turn Guns Into Gardening Tools

There's a certain poetic justice to the idea of turning a gun into a gardening tool, of returning "what came from soil back to soil," according to police Sgt. Steve Austin.

And Hartford police, along with partnering community groups, are hoping to do just that Saturday with their latest gun buyback program.

"One of the initiatives we do in law enforcement is to try and reduce the gun violence footprint in our community, but it's something that we can't do alone," Austin said Tuesday in the Johnson Stewart Community Center, the site of Saturday's program.

Representatives from the police department, St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center and Mothers United Against Violence will be on hand at the center, at 127 Martin St., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Guns turned in can be exchanged for gift cards, ranging in value from $450 for an assault rifle to $100 for a shotgun.

It's not a new program for the city, which has been hosting gun buybacks since 2009. But the aspect of the gardening tools, which will be fashioned from the guns after the firearms are disassembled by state police, is new.

It comes as a result of the long-term partnership between Mothers United, Hartford police, and the Newtown Action Alliance. The latter group, founded in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, uses sales from the gardening tools to raise money for the victims of gun violence.

"Any gun that we take off the street is one less gun able to cause harm in our community," the Rev. Henry Brown, of Mothers United Against Violence, said. "If we can get these guns off the streets, we can save our community."

That message was echoed by Janet Rice, a member of the Compass Peacebuilders youth advocacy program.

Her son, Shane Oliver, was killed in the North End in 2012. And her nephew, Jeffery Vail, was gunned down alongside his friend William Ward last winter.

"I definitely support this initiative," Rice said. "Please, come out with any unwanted guns that you have."

All firearms can be turned in anonymously.

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