Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 18, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).
The Archdiocese of Baltimore this month said it acquired several hundred guns as part of a “buyback” program financed by local parishes and individual donors.
The archdiocese announced in July that it would be hosting a “gun buyback and resource fair” on Aug. 5 at a shopping center outside of the Baltimore city center; the archdiocese described it as an interfaith event meant to build “a coalition for peace in West Baltimore.”
The buyback would be financed with more than $50,000 in funds “from Catholic parishes and individual donors,” the archdiocese said at the time.
Father Mike Murphy, the pastor of St. Joseph Monastery Parish in Irvington, said in the press release that the buyback would “give people a legal way to dispose of unwanted firearms.”
“The guns recovered could be the same ones used in a suicide or an impulsive act of rage, or they could be stolen in a home invasion and discharged in a subsequent crime,” Murphy said.
“Could our event be what sparks a violent repeat offender to change his life and turn his piece over for a couple of hundred dollars?” he added. “I’ve certainly witnessed the Holy Spirit do bigger things.”
The archdiocesan news outlet the Catholic Review subsequently reported that the buyback netted about 360 firearms, with archdiocesan officials and police officers helping to collect nearly 160 handguns alone. The $50,000 in funds were exhausted in fewer than four hours, Catholic Review reported, though people continued to surrender their guns even after the money was gone.
Participants received $200 for handguns and $300 for “assault weapons,” the outlet reported. The collected firearms were destroyed.
Murphy told CNA that the diocese “will do another [buyback] for sure!”
He said the program arose “out of sadness and a desire to make a difference” and a desire “to move the Church, all churches, into the streets and build strong community relationships.”
“We must keep up the hope that we can be a better city and to care for and respect the lives of all our brothers and sisters,” he said. “Especially those most vulnerable, those who feel a need to carry weapons.”
Murphy said the event was “a very successful day.”
“We worked in collaboration with First and Franklin Presbyterian and Hunting Ridge Catholic Church,” he said. The goal of the organizers, he said, is “to expand to as many faith communities” as possible.
“We believe these events make a difference, offer hope, and continue to build a more peaceful city,” he said. “We see this as a continuation of our work, to provide a path to peace.”
One resident told the Catholic Review that he had purchased a shotgun while living in a rough area of the city but had since moved to a safer environment. “Now that I’m in a better place, I don’t need a gun. I needed to get rid of it,” he said.
Another said she surrendered her handgun for free, calling it “worth it to get the gun off the street.”
Baltimore for decades has been among the most dangerous and violent cities in the United States. FBI data indicate that it’s among the top five most dangerous municipalities in the country.
Parishes in Baltimore have in the past worked to mitigate the city’s high crime rate. In 2012 then-Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien oversaw a coordinated effort of six pastors of city churches who were seeking to form “an ongoing coalition to battle violent crime” there.
In early November 2017, urban vicar and former auxiliary bishop Denis Madden led an evening prayer walk through the city’s streets in response to its sky-high murder rates. The city that year logged more than 300 murders.
In 2021 the archdiocese established a Grief Ministry to “offer support and healing to families in Baltimore City who have lost a loved one to violence.”
Data compiled by the Baltimore Sun counts 171 murders in the city so far this year.
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