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Gun buy-back gets 41 firearms off of Athens’ streets

Bryant Gantt (l) and Quentin Turner carry a bin containing 41 guns collected for destruction during a gun buy-back event Sunday afternoon

By Joe Johnson

Bryant Gantt’s bank account took a hit on Sunday, but he didn’t mind a bit.

In fact, the $4,100 that he paid out were for guns that area residents surrendered for destruction.

The gun buy-back that ran for two hours in the parking lot of VFW Post 2872 on Sunset Drive was a call for the community to take action to reduce gun violence, six days after Gantt’s pregnant 24-year-old niece, Auriel Callaway, was fatally shot outside her home at the Clarke Gardens apartment complex.

“I’m very happy because my goal was to get just one gun off the street so that it might save a life,” Ganttt said as he looked into a bin that held 41 surrendered guns, including rifles, shotguns, revolvers and semiautomatic pistols.

“By the looks of things, I’d say mission accomplished,” he said.

Firearms purchased during an Athens gun buy-back are arrayed on a table

Gantt had advertised the event as a “No question, no ask” gun buy-back because he wanted to assure the anonymity of the persons who turned in guns.

Representatives of the press were not invited to be present during the buy-back and the police were asked to stay near but out of sight so that people wouldn’t be discouraged from entering the VFW parking lot.

As soon as the event began at 2 p.m., a steady stream of men and women of different ages and races began arriving at the VFW, exiting their vehicles holding guns in plain sight, wrapped in cloths, in boxes and plastic bags.

Each person who turned in a gun drove away with a $100 bill.

“I went into this with the attitude of, ‘If I go into debt to save a single life it’s all worthwhile,’” Gantt said.

A portion of the money he paid out had been donated by people who supported the buy-back effort, he said.

Gantt's niece was walking outside her home last Monday night when a fight between two groups of people broke out.

When the altercation escalated to gun play, police said that Callaway was trying to move her 3-year-old son to safety when she was struck and killed by a stray bullet.

The woman was several months pregnant with a girl, who was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Auriel Callaway

Auriel “Thumpa” Callaway was a very popular young woman who had many friends. When a candlelight vigil was held outside her home Thursday, police issued an advisory for motorists to drive carefully through the area because of the hundreds of people who showed up for a candlelight vigil outside the slain woman’s home where they prayed and offered comfort to Callaway’s family.

“That’s when I got the idea for the gun buy-back because looking at all those people I wondered how many weapons are in that crowd, and what can we do to get some of them off the street,” Gantt said.

As the gun buy-back ended at 4 p.m., Athens-Clarke County police officers arrived to take custody of the weapons for destruction.

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