On Oct. 16, students of the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine volunteered at the Hartford station of the 13th Annual Capitol Region Gun Buyback.
Klair Lubonja, a fourth-year student in the School of Medicine pursuing a general surgery residency, said in an email that this yearly event is important because it can help reduce the number of injuries caused by unwanted firearms. In particular, he said the anonymity of this event played an important role.
“The work was important because we were providing participants with an anonymous and legal way to hand in their unused or unwanted guns,” Lubonja said. “Less unused or unwanted guns in people’s homes leads to less potentially fatal accidents and less opportunity for the guns to get in the wrong hands.”
Lubonja said this year’s Buyback was unique in its numerous stations around Connecticut. While he and his fellow School of Medicine students were stationed in Hartford, Lubonja said other sites included Bridgeport, Guilford, Hartford, Newtown, Norwalk, Stamford and Waterbury.
“The Gun Buyback happens every year, sometimes twice a year, but this time it was special because there were multiple sites around CT,” Lubonja said. “The site where our volunteers were stationed… was The Department of Public Works, on Jennings Rd in Hartford.”
Lubonja said the process was easy for participants: they handed in their firearms to a police officer, had them inspected by an armorer, received reimbursement in the form of Stop & Shop gift cards and were offered a gun safe and lock.
“Less unused or unwanted guns in people’s homes leads to less potentially fatal accidents and less opportunity for the guns to get in the wrong hands.” said Lubonja
“[Participants] would be greeted by a uniformed Hartford PD officer who would take the guns and walk together… to the armorer. The armorer would check the status of the gun and… would create a receipt for the participant. The participant… [was] then guided to the gift card table… and things would be tallied up and the correct amount of money (in gift cards) would be given to the participant,” Lubonja said. “They then walked to the last table, where they were able to get a gun safe or lock or both.”
Lubonja went on to discuss how he became a volunteer at the Buyback, saying every volunteer had their own reason to be there. He cited career aspirations and personal experiences as inspirations.
“For me… I am applying into General Surgery. I am specifically interested in Trauma and Critical Care. Gun injuries are a big part of trauma care,” Lubonja said. “Having myself as a child witnessed the trauma that guns can cause when in the wrong hands, to be able to volunteer at an event that was completely apolitical and recycle guns that were no longer deemed to be needed by the participants, was exceptionally rewarding.”
Lubonja emphasized that the event was apolitical. He said they looked to convey this to participants in the buyback through their greeters and by providing gun safes and gunlocks to all participants to encourage firearm safety.
“As you know, guns are very politicized in the United States and politics almost always causes conflict. Our main goal was to convey the message that this event was completely apolitical,” Lubonja said. “This was accomplished by our greeters and from us handing out free gun locks and gun safes to those who wanted one or both.”
In total, Lubonja said the buyback collected 531 firearms, with Hartford’s station collecting a record 148 firearms. He said the volunteers received thanks from both Hartford’s mayor Luke Bronin and Senator Richard Blumenthal, and he said he hopes they made Connecticut safer through this event.
“This totals 531 unwanted firearms secured from people’s homes, and more than 250 gun safes, and over 100 cable locks distributed,” Lubonja said. “Safety was the priority and we hopefully helped make Connecticut a little safer by volunteering at the event.”