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Beating Guns Into Nonlethal Gift Cards


December 04, 2009

December has arrived and the holidays are approaching. Gift exchanges, celebration meals and family get-togethers are the norm. This doesn't seem like the time of year to talk about guns ... but from my perspective as a surgeon to whom the victims of gunfire are delivered for repair, guns never take a holiday.

What could be more in the spirit of giving and helping others than finding ways to remove unwanted guns from the hands of children and adults?

On Saturday, Connecticut Children's Medical Center, Hartford Hospital and Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center are joining with the city of Hartford, the Hartford Police Department, Kohl's Department Stores and the Hartford state's attorney's office to hold a gun buyback event at the Community Renewal Team building on Windsor Street from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

People may turn in operable firearms, unloaded in clear plastic bags. Gift cards of $75, $50 and $25 will be given for turning in a semi-automatic handgun, a revolver, or a shotgun or rifle, respectively. Guns should be unloaded and placed in a clear plastic bag inside a paper bag or box.

The guns will be destroyed unless testing reveals that they were used in a crime. Non-working guns will be accepted but are not eligible for a gift card.

The driving force behind an event like this is to raise awareness about gun safety and to remind our communities that guns continue to be a problem we all share. Whenever a gun is stored in a home, there is the possibility that a child may find it in an attic or closet, it might get used during a family argument, or a case of mistaken identity will end in tragedy. Removing a gun from a home can eliminate a lot of potential heartache.

Back in 1996, I was working at Hartford Hospital and found myself, a recent college graduate, coming in contact with the gang violence in Hartford. During my subsequent years of medical school and general surgery training in the Greater Hartford area, this problem hasn't changed much, and the number of gun-related violent crimes continues to grow.

More than a decade later, my partners and I at St. Francis have cared for more than 100 victims of gun violence, which does not include those at other hospitals or those who die in our streets. We treat patients for the sake of improving their lives. This becomes more difficult when they get mixed up in street violence or find themselves innocently in the line of fire.

Christmas is coming. Hanukkah is around the corner. Everyone is thinking about buying gifts. I can't think of a single product less appropriate for the holidays than handguns. They are dangerous devices. Guns belong in the hands of well-trained, experienced individuals, trusted civil servants and an organized militia. Often, guns are purchased for the purpose of inciting fear and causing injury. Their use results in many unnecessary injuries and senseless deaths.

I, like so many other trauma surgeons, have made vain attempts at patching children and adults back together after unintentional shootings. Too often, I've had to tell parents that their son or daughter is going to die or to explain that a gunshot wound will result in permanent paralysis.

A gun buyback or gun exchange provides an easy way for unwilling gun owners, even gun enthusiasts, to rid themselves and their homes of firearms that no longer have a purpose.

I am not asking for stricter gun control. Those who wish to continue to practice the right to keep and bear arms should do so safely. But guns can kill people. A gun buyback can help minimize the possibility of more fatal gunplay in our neighborhoods.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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