The initiative aims to get guns off the streets of Denver and Aurora in 2022, melting them down so they can be turned into garden tools for community gardens.
Community activists, law enforcement, Denver youth, and Broncos linebacker Baron Browning met at Empower Field at Mile High to speak out against gun violence and speak to possible solutions.
Sharletta Evans, who lost her son, Casson, in 1995 to gun violence, has dedicated her life to the issue and spoke at the event Saturday. Casson was three years old when he was killed.
“He had a mother, and has a mother, that will continuously not allow his death to be in vain,” said Evans. “That’s why I’m here today.”
While nearly 200 guns were bought back at the event, it is a drop in the bucket compared to rising gun sales in Colorado.
More than 443,000 instant background checks were performed for sales in 2021, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. That is slightly lower than the more than 487,097 performed in 2020, but is still much higher than the 335,370 performed in 2019. That constitutes a 45% from 2019 to 2020.
While research on other buyback programs has not found a direct link with reduced violent crime, organizers with RAWtools and the Broncos are hopeful it can improve safety in Colorado in several ways.
“A lot of the buyback reasons are related to the ability or access to safe storage, or they might have kids that are getting older and they feel more uncomfortable with a firearm in the house,” said Mike Martin, founder of RAWtools. “You’re three times more likely for a gun to be used against you or someone you love in the home than it is against an intruder. So it really makes home safer to reduce the number of firearms in your home.”
For Martin, the process of collecting unwanted guns and turning them into gardening tools is both purposeful and poetic.
“You’re taking something that brings harm to communities, and turning it into something that heals communities,” he said.
The Denver Broncos and RAWtools have buyback events planned in Denver and Aurora each month through October of this year. The next event will be on Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Aurora.
All guns bought back will be completely anonymous.