Note: This article contains mentions of gun violence and suicide.
The ever-present debate over gun ownership took a turn in Durham County this week.
County officials are working to make the city safer while retaining individual rights. The county will be buying back unused firearms — no questions asked — as part of local efforts to reduce gun violence. This approach preserves autonomy for gun owners — and it's something Orange County can learn from.
On April 10, buybacks were held in two locations across Durham for residents to turn in their old, unwanted and unloaded guns in exchange for Visa gift cards. The county offered $100 for shotguns, $150 per handgun and $200 per assault rifle.
Durham County Sheriff's Office emphasizes that there will be no questions asked of those who turn in their guns, and requires no proof of identification for the individuals who participated in the buyback.
There have been 180 more shootings this year than there were last year, according to Durham Police reports. Chapel Hill isn't immune to the threat posed by firearms.
Just this month, an individual was arrested on Franklin Street for illegal possession of a firearm while under the influence. They were reportedly partaking in the rush on Franklin Street, following UNC's Final Four victory against Duke.
Durham's decision to host a buyback program comes after concerns were raised by the Durham residents on the overall safety of their community. It's time for Chapel Hill residents to raise those same concerns.
It's the duty of campus and community members to express concern over the pressing issue of gun violence, even if we don't always feel it intimately. At the same time, Chapel Hill Police Department and the Town are responsible for enacting policies that will make residents safer, especially if that means drawing inspiration from neighboring counties.
In Durham, many weapons used in attacks are stolen from unlocked cars or during home invasions when guns are not properly stored. This gun buyback hopes to take these firearms out of homes and cars and into the county’s possession in order to lower the high rates of stolen firearms and subsequent gun violence.
Additionally, the county is requesting court approval to destroy a portion of the guns that were collected on Saturday.
Programs like this are important because they take seriously the extreme potential for gun violence that comes with high rates of gun ownership. Furthermore, gun violence can take many forms, including homicides, suicides and accidental shootings. By offering buyback programs, counties take responsibility and are able to decrease potential risks to the community.
The issue is interwoven with mental health crises, domestic and police violence. It's an issue of mass shootings on campus, which student groups like UNC's March for Our Lives are seeking to gain awareness around.
Durham County has taken the lead when it comes to minimizing firearm-related violence.
And it's crucial that Orange County, the Town of Chapel Hill and the Chapel Hill Police Department follow in their footsteps.
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