MCPS partnered with the State's Attorney's Office and Rockville police on a gun buyback event last month. Credit: Dan Schere

The Rockville police department, in partnership with the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office and Montgomery County Public Schools, is offering Visa gift cards of $100 or $200 to people who turn in firearms during an Aug. 27 gun buyback event.

A gun buyback event is an initiative designed to help reduce gun violence in a community by providing incentives, often financial, to people for turning in guns.

Rockville Police Chief Victor Brito told reporters during Wednesday’s media briefing that the drive-up event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Rockville police station parking lot on West Montgomery Avenue. The event is open to anyone.

Those who turn in functioning handguns, rifles and shotguns will receive a $100 gift card for each firearm and those who turn in assault-style weapons and privately made firearms, also known as ghost guns, will receive a $200 gift card, Brito said. Participants do not need to bring identification and will not be asked questions. However, Brito noted the firearms must be unloaded and people must remain in their vehicles with their firearms.

“No ammunition in firearms will be allowed. And no walkups will be allowed,” he said.

Brito added that nonfunctioning firearms also will be accepted, but there will be no compensation.

“It’s very important for us that every gun turned in is one less gun that can be used in a serious crime, suicide, domestic violence incident, or accidentally discharged by a child,” he said. “Keeping guns off our community streets, and out of the hands of our youth is our highest priority.”

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said his office immediately agreed to partner with Rockville police when Brito approached him about the idea. Through Aug. 14, 790 guns had been seized by law enforcement in the county — about 180 more guns than the total number seized in 2021, McCarthy said. Additionally, the number of ghost guns seized so far this year has doubled from last year’s total, he noted.

“The numbers are going in the wrong direction when it comes to the subject of guns,” McCarthy said.

According to authorities, a 17-year-old who is accused of shooting and seriously injuring a fellow student in January at Col. Zadok Magruder High School in Derwood used a ghost gun that he bought online.

Both McCarthy and MCPS Superintendent Monifa McKnight said Wednesday that a buyback program such as the one in Rockville is important as students get ready to return to school.

“We all want to make sure we’re creating a psychologically safe environment for our students. And that means they have to feel safe when they’re walking into our schools and that means they have to feel safe as they’re engaging in their communities,” McKnight said. “Our schools are a microcosm of our community, so anything that is happening within our community is going to impact our schools.”

McCarthy said in an interview after the event that Montgomery County police are not involved in this buyback event. He hopes similar events are held in other parts of the county.

“I really think we should be doing this in Gaithersburg. We should be doing this in Germantown,” he said. “I salute Rockville for being the first, but we should be doing this in the central business districts, in the east part of the county, in the Paint Branch area … all of these areas need the same program.”

McCarthy said he continues to worry about youth under the age of 21 gaining possession of guns, particularly ghost guns. Parents have an incentive to turn in those ghost guns because they are now illegal in Maryland, he said.

“Maybe when you bought it online, you bought what you thought was legal. Now the law has changed and there is a crackdown on them,” he said.

McCarthy said that his office, the Rockville police department and MCPS have contributed a total of $35,000 toward the gun buyback program.

When asked how officials could measure the success of the Aug. 27 event, McCarthy said turnout will be the best indicator.

“Do you recover guns? Do you run out of money because so many people show up to turn in guns that you don’t have enough money for gift cards? That’s happened in some programs [nationally],” he said.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com