How the Broncos’ partnership with RAWtools works to prevent tragedies through gun buy-back events

AURORA, Colo. — Late at 9 a.m. Saturday morning in the Denver metro area, it was already hot.

In Aurora’s Heritage Christian Center parking lot, it was the kind of heat that radiated off the sidewalk in palpable waves, when sitting in a car can feel more uncomfortable with every passing minute in the blazing Colorado sun.

Still, people in 10 to 15 cars sat in the parking lot waiting for the clock to strike 10 a.m. when the Broncos gun buyback would begin. Through a collective partnership with Denver and Aurora board members, as well as local nonprofits RAWtoolsthe Broncos have backed a monthly slate of eight such buyouts, which began in March and will run through October.

This one, however, was perhaps more anticipated than the previous three due to recent events. In the weeks leading up to the takeover, the country was rocked by two of its most shocking mass shootings in recent memory, one at a grocery store in Buffalo and another at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

On Saturday morning, 111 guns were collected in exchange for Visa gift cards worth up to $250 per gun at the drive-in event. The participants remained in their vehicles but could observe that the weapons were indeed disarmed, cut in three places as recommended by the ATF.

Prior to their departure, participants also had the opportunity to complete an anonymous survey, and it was clear that the recent tragedies were prompting them to take action.

“We asked in the survey, ‘How did you hear about this gun buy-back event?'” said Vice President of Community Development Allie Engelken. “And there were a lot of people who said, ‘After Uvalde, after Buffalo, I googled how to dispose of a gun and that’s what came up. So I think individuals are looking for a way to take a step or take action.”

While the donation of more than 100 firearms – and more than 450 over the four buy-back events so far this year – does not completely guarantee the prevention of mass shootings, it does prevent any chance that these donated weapons will be used in all kinds of tragedy, including suicides, which account for three-quarters of Colorado’s 850 annual gun deaths, According to the CDC.

“At its core, the program focuses on harm reduction,” Engelken said. “While removing a gun will not end the challenges of gun violence in our country, it has the potential to save a life inside or outside a home.”

And in this way, the destruction of firearms – about half of which were semi-automatic and almost a dozen assault rifles – could be a very powerful experience.

“It’s very moving and it’s very cathartic,” says Engelken. “It’s very moving to see the weapons cut and destroyed on the spot, knowing that they won’t fall into the wrong hands or be used in any kind of crime from then on.”

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