KISSIMMEE – The controversial issue of gun control is back in the political spotlight, following the horrific shooting massacre in Aurora, Colorado on Saturday in a suburban movie theater minutes into the premiere of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.”
The deadly attack, which left 12 people dead and 58 injured, set off a round of debate in newspaper editorials, on the Sunday morning political talk shows, and on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter on whether more strict gun control laws could have prevented this tragedy.
Locally, the shooting happened one say after a local sheriff’s office announced that it would hold an annual program in August, that offers people a gas card in return for turning in their guns to local law enforcement.
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office announced on Friday that the agency would hold the 5th Annual Gas for Guns program, in conjunction with the agency Crimeline, to encourage local residents to bring in unwanted guns and turn them over to the sheriff’s office.
The hope of law enforcement is that by getting these guns out of local homes, it will reduce the chance of those weapons either being stolen or in some other way falling into the wrong hands.
By bringing any weapons to the Gas for Guns programs, residents can trade them in for $50 gas cards. This event is completely anonymous – no one will be asked questions about where they got the gun they’re turning in, or be asked to show a receipt of purchase or a gun permit.
The sheriff’s office is requesting that all firearms brought to this event be placed in a plastic bag, unloaded and safely secured.
“If you cannot unload the gun, leave it in your vehicle and a deputy will remove it from your car,” noted Twis Lizasuain, public information officer for the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.
“The goal is to encourage citizens to turn in unwanted firearms to remove them from our community,” Osceola Sheriff Bob Hansell said.
The gas cards are going to be purchased using proceeds from the agency’s forfeiture fund — or money seized by the sheriff’s Office as a result of being connected with the commission of a felony crime.
Gas for Guns will take place on Thursday, Aug. 16 at Osceola Heritage Park at 1875 Silver Spur Lane in Kissimmee, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The program has done well in the past. Lizasuain noted that in the four years that the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office has sponsored a local Gas for Guns event, the agency collected more than 406 weapons.
Other county agencies will be hosting similar programs next month, offering different incentives to entice residents to turn in their weapons. Last year, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office hosted a Gift Card for Guns program, giving the people who traded in their guns a $50 gift card to Wal-Mart.
That office collected a wide range of guns at the event, held at the Central Florida Fairgrounds, including a sporter semi-automatic rifle, some Saturday Night Specials handguns, and a few that could be considered historic and valuable, such as one weapon that was a World War II-era handgun with Japanese handwriting on it.
Often times, these weapons are owned by people who never wanted a gun and don’t plan to use one, and don’t even feel comfortable having it in their house, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office has noted.
Sometimes the weapons brought in to these events have been reported stolen, which the agencies have discovered following a check of other local law enforcement offices.
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