The Collective Empowerment Group and Prince George’s County Police Host Gun Buy Back Event to Curb Community Violence
By Annamarya Scaccia
Between 2000 and 2006, Prince George’s County made up for 1014 violent deaths caused by a firearm—or 169 deaths per year—making it the second highest number of fatalities in the 24-county state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Baltimore City only exceeded that count by 426 gun-related deaths during the six-year period.
And Prince George’s County number more than doubled that of Baltimore County, ranked third highest, which saw a total of 480 deaths by firearm between those years.
In an effort to curb such violence in the county, the Collective Empowerment Group, Inc. (CEG) and Prince George’s County Police held the Gun Buy Back Community Day Party Friday evening at The Sanctuary at Kingdom Square in Capitol Heights. Attendees received $100 for turning in handguns, shotguns and rifles, while $200 was given for all types of assault weapons. Over 50 guns were collected in the first hour of the Mar. 29 event [view photos here.]
“We need to erase the stigma that Prince George’s County is overrun with crime and that we don’t care about our community,” said CEG President Pastor Anthony Maclin, who hoped to collect over 150 guns during the three-hour buy-back. “For those of us that are church leaders, we need to make sure that we are proactive instead of always being reactive. I think the greatest thing that’s happened for us is our ability to step in and say, ‘We will do something to make sure our streets are safe.’”
“We got to stop the killing in our communities,” he added.
The turn-in event was a joint endeavor between the police, CEG, and a number of county leaders including County Council Chair Andrea C. Harrison (D-District 5), and Councilmembers Derrick Davis (D-District 6), Karen Toles (D-District 7), Mel Franklin (D-District 9), and Will Campos (D-District 2). But it’s just one of many efforts, said Maclin, to “try to bring peace so those events are not always shrouded by violence.”
Maclin’s thoughts echo that of Councilmember Davis, who wrote in a Mar. 28 email that the gun buy-back is “a single piece to a puzzle [county council is] assembling.” “I was really happy to hear that we would get the full-throated support of the faith community and this first step shows how committed they really are,” he wrote.
Part of that puzzle is the 13-member Work Group on Crime, Children and Safer Communities, which Davis and the four others participating councilmembers helped establish last month. The committee met for the first time Thursday to discuss strategies, initiatives and solutions addressing the county’s recent spike in youth violence, which they plan to implement by September.
“It is our belief that the work group will be better suited to tackle the issue of violence in our communities in a more unified, holistic way,” wrote Davis. “We’re moving together. We’re moving and I won’t let us stop.”
As of Feb. 21, seven Prince George’s County teenagerswere killed due to gun violence since the start of the school year, according to NBC4. One of the victims, 15-year-old Charles Michael Walker, Jr. of Suitland High School, was shot and killed in Hillcrest Heights on Feb. 18 allegedly for a pair of shoes, the news station reported.
A day later, 18-year-olds Andre Walter Shuford of Forestville and Aaron Kidd, another Suitland student, were also shot. Kidd was pronounced dead at the scene, while Shuford passed on Feb. 20. Kidd’s mother told NBC4 that her son was expecting a child in March.
“To see anything violent in nature or dealing with the youth, it’s heart-wrenching,” said Grammy-nominated neo-soul singer-songwriter Raheem DeVaughn, who attended the Mar. 29 program as a special guest to support “the Stop the Violence movement.” “As a musician, as an artist, and as a songwriter, it’s not the music that’s spearheaded the violence. You gotta go to the community head-on, attack the drugs in the community and some of the other issues that are the plights of the black community.”
Friday’s event is the second gun turn-in program held in the county this month. Last week, Councilmember Mary Lehman (D-District 1) and the Prince George’s County NAACP hosted a “Gift Cards for Guns” program at Adelphi’s Eglise Baptiste du Calvaire, offering participants a $125 pre-paid Visa card for each forfeited firearm. According to NBC4, 102 guns were collected during the Mar. 23 program—nearly a quarter of the over 450 gathered last year during similar exchanges.
“This is just sort of my response to the gun violence in our society,” Lehman told the media outlet. “I’m trying to do my small part to get guns out of our communities and off our streets.”
It’s an issue that has also been a top priority for Gov. Martin O’Malley since the Dec. 14 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., which claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary. On Mar. 29, two Maryland House panels—the House Judiciary Committee and the House Health and Government Operations Committee—passed an amended version of the governor’s gun-control measure by a 27-18 vote. Already approved by the state senate, O’Malley’s bill, which he introduced in January, would ban the sale of assault-style riles, place a 10-bullet limit to magazines, and require fingerprints and a license for handgun purchases.
PHOTOS BY JOHN W. BODY, JR. ED. NOTE: Pastor Maclin is secretary of the Prince George’s Suite board Published on Prince George’s Suite – Monday, April 1, 2013