Since it was established in 2002 as an Injury-Free Coalition for Kids program, the Goods for Guns buyback has taken hundreds of unwanted and potentially dangerous handguns, rifles—including scores of semi-automatics, assault rifles and even a machine gun—off the streets of Worcester and surrounding towns. This year, the program broke the 2,000 gun mark. The 195 guns collected on Dec. 11 and Dec. 18 brought the eight-year total to 2,056 guns that have been turned in for gift cards; in addition, hundreds of gun safety locks have been distributed at no charge.
With a goal of removing guns from homes where children might be present, and preventing interpersonal injury, the gun buyback is operated in close collaboration with the Worcester Police Department, the Worcester County District Attorney and the Worcester Department of Public Health. UMass Memorial Medical Center is the chief sponsor of the program, and WalMart has been a supporter since its inception, donating thousands of dollars worth of gift cards to be given in exchange for guns. The buyback itself is operated by volunteers from UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial, along with members of the Worcester Police Department. The volunteers are treated to a pizza lunch by William Kotsopoulos, owner of Jim’s Pizza on Belmont Street, who has supported the event since one of his delivery men was held up at gunpoint years ago.
Michael Hirsh, MD, professor of surgery and pediatrics, is the man who brought the Goods for Guns buyback to the city. As the program has taken root, Dr. Hirsh and colleagues have sought to create a public monument to community’s efforts to overcome gun violence. Working with several area organizations, they are planning a Guns for Art public art exhibit that they hope will incorporate some of the firearms—disassembled but still recognizable as guns—in an arch to be placed in one of the city’s parks.
See Mike Hirsh’s moving essay about the importance of the buyback and the plans for a public art display.