Under a gun-metal gray sky, North Charleston police warmed themselves at a space heater Saturday as they passed out Wal-Mart gift certificates in a parking lot to people who turned in firearms.
In less than an hour, 10 handguns, four rifles and a box of ammunition were collected at Seacoast Church Dream Center on North Rhett Avenue in the Charleston Farms neighborhood.
The collected guns will be melted, and the metal may be used for an art project sponsored by the city, said North Charleston Police Chief Jon Zumalt.
"Something that relates to peace," he said.
The program is an effort to cut down on violent crimes by removing firearms from the streets.
People came from all over the area to hand guns over to police outside the church. In addition to a gift certificate, they were offered a gun lock.
Douglas Smith of West Ashley parted with a .380-caliber pistol and picked up a lock for the .38 Special his wife gave him for his birthday. Tim Bruns of Mount Pleasant said he was glad to get rid of his .44-caliber pistol. The gun was locked-up at his house and it had a trigger lock.
"If somebody came in, all I could do is hit them with it," Bruns said.
Also, state, federal and local authorities were in the neighborhood Thursday to discuss a new program to give low-level drug dealers a choice between a jobs program or jail. The arrests of 15 suspected drug dealers after a six-month investigation was also announced.
The new program designed to steer drug dealers into honest work is called Stop and Take A New Direction, or STAND. A gun buyback was held in the neighborhood because of the STAND program unveiled there, Zumalt said.
"This is one of many strategies that we use," Zumalt said of the gun buyback.
The event Saturday was the third annual gun buyback, which is an opportunity for people to turn in guns with no questions asked. Seventy-two firearms were collected at three North Charleston locations.