A Yarmouth police officer displays a .32-caliber revolver that was turned in to the department Saturday.
By Beth Quimby
FALMOUTH — Three municipal police departments and the Maine State Police took in a small arsenal of unwanted guns and bags full of ammunition and raised money for a charitable cause during a gun donation program Saturday.
The event was aimed at helping reluctant gun owners, such as hunters' widows who don't know what to do with the weapons that have come into their possession. In all, 68 guns and a pile of ammunition were turned in at Cumberland, Falmouth and Yarmouth police departments and the state police barracks in Gray.
At the end of the day the usable guns were transported to Howell's Archery Center in Gray, where they are to be sold and the proceeds donated to Special Olympics Maine.
Police said they didn't know what kind of response to expect. Maine State Police Sgt. Michael Edes said he considered the program a success after hearing the expressions of relief from the more than two dozen people from Berwick, Otisfield, Casco and Portland who dropped off donations by early afternoon at the Gray barracks.
"That is exactly what we aimed for, no pun intended," said Edes.
Many people told the police they were grateful for the Safe Maine Communities project, Edes said.
Robert Chamberlain of Yarmouth dropped by the Yarmouth Police Department to donate a single-barrel shotgun once used by his son when they went rabbit and bird hunting and an antique .32-caliber pistol that had been in the family for years.
"I was thinking about getting rid of them and then this program came on and it sounded pretty good," said Chamberlain.
Edes said some of the guns dropped off at the barracks were quite valuable, including a pearl-handled cowboy-style revolver and a 100-year-old single-barrel shotgun.
In Falmouth, Sgt. Frank Soule collected a pile of rifles and handguns, including a Russian-made handgun. One woman dropped off a single shotgun shell.
"It's weird to have someone walking into the lobby with a weapon," said Soule.
One of the more notable donations of the day was made in Cumberland, where a man dropped off a World War II-era rifle that likely contained a jammed live shell.
"We locked it up in the police cruiser," said Cumberland Police Lt. Milton Calder.
Calder said one woman was so reluctant to handle an old family shotgun that the police went to her house to collect the gun.
Edes said the guns that are no longer usable will be chopped up. The ammunition will be burned in a special burn tank operated by the State Police Bomb Squad. The remaining shells and lead will be recycled.
The participating agencies also distributed gun safety advice and free gun locks. Unlike controversial gun buyback programs in other states, where the weapons are destroyed to reduce firearms on the streets, the Maine effort was directed at improving gun safety, said Soule.
The program has won the approval of Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence and is not opposed by the Sportman's Alliance of Maine, which promotes gun ownership rights.
Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:
Falmouth Police Sgt. Frank Soule with guns and ammunition donated Saturday. Sales of some of them will benefit Special Olympics Maine.