Bullets continually sending young bodies to mortuaries and bringing grief to families, sparked another gun buyback program to be held this Saturday from Jordan Grove Missionary Baptist Church Rev. Jerome Starling. But this one will be accompanied by a free neighborhood cookout at Liberty City’s Tacolcy Park.
Former heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe will be at the cookout, which runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Northwest 61st Street and Ninth Avenue. The gun buyback, at Starling’s church, 5946 NW 12th St., runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“The reason for this event is to bring the community together,” said Biscayne Gardens Chamber of Commerce president Bernard Jennings. “Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters to come together. He said law enforcement officers from the Miami and Miami-Dade police departments will be on hand “ in uniform and out of uniform just to talk and mingle."
Those who bring in firearms to the church — no questions asked or identification checked — will receive a $50 gift card for non-working guns and rifles or a $100 gift card for working guns and rifles.
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“It’s important to get as many guns off the street as possible,” Jennings said. “But it was only one bullet” that killed 6-year-old King Carter a couple of weeks ago in front of his Northwest Miami-Dade apartment complex.
“It only takes one gun off the street to make a difference, one life at a time,” he said. “Not one thing is going to be the solution to this problem. It’s going to be a community effort.”
The four gun buybacks last year with which Starling was involved collected 663 guns and the 2014 buybacks brought in around 800.
“By turning these guns in, you’re helping us celebrate life, not shooting and killing someone by stray bullet or vengeance,” said Starling, a crusader against gun violence since a niece, Rickia Isaac, was killed by a stray bullet in 1997. “It’s not about getting angry. It’s about having a good time and a way to have a good time in our community. In any community. What happens in this community can happen in any other community.”
Kris Lawrence, owner of Hollywood’s The Heavyweight Factory gym, funded the gift cards and the cookout at Tacolcy.
“I was raised in this neighborhood," Lawrence said. "I went to Charles Drew Elementary. My mother taught at Charles Drew. I was fortunate enough to do well in my life, this is just giving back, especially now when it’s needed the most with the violence in the community.”