SOUTH PORTLAND/CAPE ELIZABETH – The police departments in South Portland and Cape Elizabeth will host a “Guns to Garden Tools” day on 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 11 to collect unwanted firearms to be turned into garden tools for the community.

The collection will be orchestrated similar to a drug drop off day (which the South Portland Police Department is hosting 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 27) for prescription medicine, providing an outlet for safe disposal. For the May 11 event, residents can turn in guns and or ammunition to any of the greater Portland drop off locations at the police departments of South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Portland, Yarmouth, Gorham, Wells, Brunswick, Falmouth and Scarborough.

“The program speaks for itself,” said South Portland Police Chief Edward Googins. “It gives the community an opportunity to dispose of firearms in a safe way.”

The event is sponsored by the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, based out of Portland, an organization dedicated to furthering gun violence awareness. Founded in 2000, it is the longest running gun-violence prevention organization in Maine.

“Disposing of unwanted firearms increases safety within the home, especially when children are around,” said Maine Gun Safety Coalition Executive Director Geoff Bickford. “Taking care of firearms and making sure they’re secured safely is crucial. It’s about safety.”

According to statistics provided by the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, there are more that 200 million guns in civilian hands in the United States, and 40 percent of those were purchased without a background check. Maine is ninth in the nation in women being killed by men, and there is currently a loophole in state law that allows domestic abusers and felons to purchase guns without a background check.

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According to the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, an unregistered gun within the home significantly increases the chances of suicide, domestic violence and homicide. Since 2015 in the state of Maine, there have been 241 gun related incidents, including 12 homicides, 17 injuries, and 85 instances of threatening with a firearm.

After surrendering the unwanted firearm, the guns will be disassembled prior to being sent to Colorado-based company RAWtools, which specializes in turning guns into garden tools for the community. RAWtools Inc. was founded after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, with the mission to limit gun violence by repurposing firearms into a tool for the community through its Sword to Plow program, the title of which comes from the Bible verse Isaiah 2:4 which reads, “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

“We often get people who are left firearms after someone dies, and they don’t want it, don’t use it, but don’t know how to get rid of it,” said Googins, who is a longtime board member for the Maine Gun Safety Coalition. “We’re hoping this event will trigger a thought to get them out of the house.”

For the mass initiative in Maine, the dismembered guns will all be sent to the Colorado organization, which will in turn melt them down and return the garden tools to be used in the community.

While this is the first time that the Maine Gun Safety Coalition has teamed up with RAWtools, Yarmouth held an event of its own last year and saw great success.

“We want this to be an annual event,” Bickford said. “We want it to spark a conversation.”

To turn in an unwanted firearm, bring them to any of the police stations South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Portland, Yarmouth, Gorham, Wells, Brunswick, Falmouth, and Scarborough on May 11 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The South Portland Police Department is located at 30 Anthoine St., and the Cape Elizabeth Police Department is at 325 Ocean House Road. While they are participating in the event, the South Portland Police Department accepts unwanted firearms year-round.

Should a resident need aid in handling the firearms or ammunition, call 200-7179 and the Maine Gun Safety Coalition will organization transportation. In an effort to continue with the initiative to make firearms in the home safer, any of the aforementioned police stations offer free trigger locks. For more information on the event and how to properly dispose of a firearm, email [email protected]

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