More than 160 guns turned over to Chicago police at buy-back event in Austin

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Guns piled up Saturday at Hope Community Church in Austin, where the Chicago Police Department helped get weapons off the streets with no questions asked.

"Just solely a safe space where they come in and turn in those weapons so they're not used on the street, don't do any harm to people or children out in the street," said Commander Angel Novalez of the CPD Community Policing Group.



Novalez said people of all ages and races bring in guns. His team checks each firearm and takes down non-personally identifiable information, he said.

Chicago police said they collected 164 guns and 26 replica guns at Saturday's event. The guns will be destroyed and never returned to the streets.

"It empowers members of the community to take part in their own safety," Novalez said.

Residents received a $100 gift card for every gun turned in. Replica weapons, like BB guns, were also exchanged for a $10 gift card.

"They may be misinterpreted for a real weapon, and then that may lead to tragedy that we want to avert," said Novalez.

That's especially true as Chicago battles a recent surge in gun violence that has left several children dead. It's just one problem the church's reverend hopes to help with.

"We're helping with rental assistance, we're helping with free computers," Rev. Steve Epting. "We're helping with the census and we're also giving away food today."

And at a time when police departments are under heightened scrutiny, Epting called the gun turn-in event a bright spot, even with the need for accountability.

"This becomes a great example of real what real partnership can look like," he said.
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