Mainers who want to get rid of unwanted firearms and ammunition will have ample opportunity on Saturday, when the Maine Gun Safety Coalition will host a gun giveback day in collaboration with the Maine chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and police departments across the state.

This is the second giveback day that the coalition has hosted. In 2019, it launched what was supposed to be an annual event but the pandemic interfered. That year, more than 500 firearms and 10,000 rounds of ammunition were turned in, and the coalition handed out many safe storage devices to Maine gun owners.

Police departments in Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth, Kennebunk, Brunswick, Saco, Waterville, Yarmouth and Scarborough, as well as the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office in Bath. will accept guns and ammunition Saturday.

The giveback event is being held on the same day as March For Our Lives marches against gun violence in Washington, D.C., and more than 300 other locations nationwide, including nine in Maine. The march in Portland is scheduled to start at noon at Congress and Pearl streets.

The givebacks are focused on gun safety.

The coalition’s mission for the giveback day is to raise awareness, and to let people know how to get rid of firearms and ammunition and how to secure guns safely.


Though the event is one day, Maine police departments are always willing to accept firearms.

More than half of Maine homes have guns, which means that most children across the state are living in or visiting homes that have one or more firearms, according to the coalition.

“Every gun that’s not in a house in Maine is a gun that’s not going to be found by a curious toddler. It’s not going to be found by a teenager who is going through turmoil and who is particularly impulsive, as we know teenagers are. It’s not going to be found by an older family member that might be going through a period of mental health crisis. And it’s not going to be stolen and then used in a crime later on,” said Geoff Bickford, the coalition’s executive director.

The giveback event is modeled after prescription drug takebacks, in which individuals can voluntarily and safely discard prescription drugs at police stations.

After the guns and ammunition are collected, skilled tradespeople will dismantle the firearms in accordance with Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) standards. Once the guns are rendered useless as firearms, they will be sent as scrap metal to Humanium Metal, an international nonprofit based in Sweden, to be used for jewelry making. The nonprofit has worked on similar projects in South America and Africa, but this is its first partnership in the United States, according to the coalition. Profits from sales of the jewelry will be returned to the coalition, which will use them to purchase more safe storage devices to give out across the state.

Cut up firearms are piled on the ground at the Falmouth Police Department on Saturday. Gregory A. Rec/Staff Photographer

The coalition has given out more than 25,000 safe storage devices since it launched in 2000.


This year, Bickford said, the giveback is prompting more conversation, especially on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram after mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, as well as a recent shooting in Wells that claimed the life of a toddler.

“People feel helpless because politicians refuse to respond to this issue in any manner, be it practical or impractical. And so, this is a way that if you don’t have a gun, you can help promote the event. Or if you have a gun you’d like to get rid of, you can,” said Bickford. “It’s a way, I think, for people to feel empowered. You’re not going to stop every tragedy. But every gun that we remove from a home, especially those that are unwanted, is a gun that will never be used in a mass shooting, that will never be used to take someone’s own life or someone else’s life.”

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, said she supports the giveback event as a means of addressing the rising number of gun-related deaths nationwide.

“More children died from guns than car accidents in 2020. That uniquely American statistic is not only disturbing – it’s avoidable,” Pingree wrote in a statement to the Press Herald. “While Democrats in Congress work to pass commonsense gun safety legislation, Mainers can play a part in helping reduce gun-related accidents and deaths by safely, legally, and responsibly giving away their unwanted firearms and ammunition. Because it could mean one less child discovering an unsecured gun; one less person in crisis using a firearm to take their own life; one less method to hurt or kill others.”

A giveback day doesn’t solve the problem, but the hope is that it can help.

“Success here is not in the number of guns [we collect]. The goal is simply that if you have one and you don’t know how to safely dispose of it, you can do it here,” Waterville Chief of Police Joseph Massey said. “And so if we get one or two, then we’re happy with that. And if we get 20, we’re good with that also.”

The event is intended to offer a service to those with guns that are unwanted for a variety of reasons. Someone could have inherited a firearm or had a change in lifestyle, for instance. The aim is to help avoid tragedies that could occur when an unsecured or unwanted gun is used improperly.

“The added benefit of this giveback, from a public safety perspective, is that these firearms won’t get in the hands of somebody that they shouldn’t,” said Falmouth Chief of Police John Kilbride. “Maybe kids grab them, or these folks are a victim of a crime and they’re stolen from their house. We see a lot of grandparents that now have grandkids running around their homes, and they don’t want guns in their house. Getting rid of them could avoid a potential tragedy.”

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