Police departments across southern Maine collected dozens of unwanted firearms Saturday as part of a coordinated “gun give-back” program.

The event was organized by the Maine Gun Safety Coalition in conjunction with police departments in Portland, South Portland, Gorham, Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth, Wells, Falmouth, Yarmouth and Brunswick.

Patrolman Les Smith organizes guns that were dropped off at the Portland Police Department as part of a “give-back” event Saturday. Firearms turned over to police departments in nine communities across southern Maine will be donated to a nonprofit that turns materials from the guns into gardening tools. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Firearms turned in to the nine departments will be disabled and donated to a Colorado-based organization, RAWtools, that uses materials from guns to make handheld garden tools. Those tools will then be returned to the state and distributed to Portland-area schools with gardening programs.

In Brunswick, Police Chief Richard Rizzo and his officers had collected 34 rifles, 14 revolvers and six semi-automatic handguns as of 1 p.m., an hour before the give-back event was due to end.

Many of the people said their guns were owned by a now-deceased family member or were simply no longer used in their household, Rizzo said. The event also drew gun owners from Wiscasset and other towns because Brunswick was the northernmost community participating in the program.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s been a success in Brunswick,” Rizzo said.

The Portland Police Department had received nine firearms by the time the event ended at 2 p.m., while nearby Falmouth received more than a dozen as well as a large box of unused ammunition.

“It went very well,” said Falmouth Police Chief John Kilbride. “We handed gun locks out and were able to talk to people about gun safety.”

Many police departments throughout Maine will accept unwanted guns or ammunition at any time as a public service to the community. The guns and ammunition are typically destroyed by police.

But the Maine Gun Safety Coalition – an organization active on both safety education and firearm-related policy issues – organized Saturday’s “Guns to Garden Tools” program as a “spring cleaning” event timed to coincide with Mother’s Day on Sunday.

Gun owners were able to drop off the firearms anonymously. And while police will run a firearm’s serial numbers – if available – through databases to determine if it was reported stolen or used in a crime, donors were not obligated to fill out any paperwork or answer questions about the firearms.


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