Nearly 70 cars lined up outside Hickory Hill Mall Saturday morning. They weren't in line for a sale, but to turn in their guns.
"There are 50 to 75 less chances that some child is going to show up at school with a gun in a backpack or that somebody's going to end up with a gun pointed between their nose," said Memphis Mayor A C Wharton.
Saturday morning, Memphis police traded citizens their guns for Mapco gas cards, Kroger gift cards or Grizzlies tickets in an effort to keep firearms off the city streets.
"Last year we had 500 guns that we took off the streets," said Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong. "You cannot convince me that a percentage of those guns would've been used in the commission of some type of violent crime had we not taken those guns off the streets."
People could turn in up to three guns, and no one asked any questions about it. Wharton said many mothers know their sons have guns but do not want to risk losing their son to police by turning in the weapon.
"She's having to make a difficult decision, ‘Do I go and turn him in and he's in trouble and my son is gone? Or do I just leave the gun alone?'" said Wharton.
This school year alone, Armstrong said there have been two to three instances when an elementary school age child brought a gun to school. In August, a five-year-old brought a gun with him to Westside Elementary School and it discharged in the cafeteria.
"I can't tell you how many parents have walked up to me and said, ‘You know, I slept better knowing I didn't have a gun in the house; I slept better knowing my kid didn't go to school with a gun,'" said Armstrong, a parent himself.
He adds that collecting hundreds of guns from citizens and keeping them off the street helps the whole city sleep a little better at night.
"We're trying to save lives. If we save one life then this was worthwhile," said Armstrong.
While no one was asked questions when they turned in their guns on Saturday, Armstrong said the police department will check the serial numbers from the firearms to see if they match with any burglaries or other crimes.
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