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Liberty City gun buyback trades groceries, Heat tickets for weapons

Miamians flocked to Liberty City to trade their guns for supermarket gift cards and Miami Heat tickets on Saturday.

Miami Police and Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado held a gun buyback at Jordan Grove Baptist Church to try to stop gun violence.

“What we’re doing here, we’re beating the odds,” Regalado said. “If one incident is avoided, it’s worth it.”

Miami Police spokesman Sgt. Freddie Cruz said 50 to 60 people returned 129 guns over the course of the day, mostly hunting rifles and small-caliber handguns

Bob Bravo, 46, drove from Hialeah to give up the rifle he bought nine years ago for deer hunting in Georgia.

He said the trigger was getting too sensitive, and he’d had a few close calls when the gun went off when he didn’t want it to.

“I figure God’s telling me to get rid of it before I have an accident,” he said.

Bravo hoped to get a Walmart gift card in exchange for the rifle, but since it wasn’t working properly, police determined his weapon was only worth a $25 certificate to Winn-Dixie.

A handful of people returned high-powered rifles and assault weapons, which is what police were really after with this event.

“This,” said Miami police spokesman Sgt. Freddie Cruz, holding up a sawed-off shotgun, “could cut a person in half. This is exactly what we’re trying to keep off the streets.”

Douglas Cook, a pastor at Jordan Grove Baptist Church, brought his father’s 75-year-old hunting rifle to the buyback to set a good example.

As a young boy growing up on a farm in Savannah, Ga., Cook used to use the rifle to shoot rabbits and small birds.

Cook said his father raised 12 boys and five girls, and nobody touched the rifle without permission.

“But young people aren’t that way now,” he said.

Every couple of weeks, gun violence results in funerals at Jordan Grove. Cook and his congregation are desperate to get the guns off the street.

“We need to stop this,” he said.

Regalado said hosting the buyback at a church, with pastors overseeing, reassures people that they won’t get in trouble for having the weapons they’re returning.

At the buyback, people were allowed to return any type of unloaded gun, no questions asked.

Returned guns will be taken to the Miami Police Department and, if possible, tested to see if the weapons were involved in any crimes, Cruz said. Those not tied to crimes will be destroyed.

“They are not circulated onto the streets,” he said.

Instead of cash rewards, people were given a choice of $25 or $50 gift certificates to Walmart or Winn-Dixie, or 300-level Miami Heat tickets, depending on the value and number of the weapons.

Each person who returned an assault rifle was given two 100-level tickets to a March Miami Heat game.

Dade Medical College and Padron Cigars each bought $5,000 worth of gift certificates and basketball tickets, which they donated to the police department for the buyback, Regalado said.

Myrtle Boyd got in line at 10:30 a.m. to turn in the .22 caliber handgun she’s had for more than 45 years.

Boyd, 82, bought the gun when she was living by herself on Northwest 56th Street in Liberty City. She said she felt safer with it.

But now she has grandchildren in the house, and she feels the children would be safer without it.

Besides, she said, “I’m too old. I don’t want it.”