EAST ST. LOUIS — The event was called "Turn It In -- Turn It Around," and it was a chance for people with guns in their homes to turn them in and receive a $25 gift certificate to Schnucks grocery stores.
From noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, sheriff's deputies stood by a safe storage truck, ready to collect any guns that were brought to the armory on 29th and State streets in East St. Louis. Eight guns, including a sawed-off shot gun, were collected.
The young woman who brought in the shotgun said she was doing it in for a friend who was afraid he might be arrested for having the weapon.
"They didn't ask for my ID or anything. It was simple: We brought the gun, turned it in and got a gift certificate."
St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly, on hand for the event, said, "There's been an increase in federal and state gun charges, so I am not surprised somebody might be skeptical about turning a weapon in to the sheriff, but this church did a good thing and I hope they keep it up as people see it's not a set up."
Volunteers from New Life Community Church were on hand, too. It was Alicia Paulette, a member of the church who came up with the idea. She said it came to her while she and some family members were watching a Tyler Perry television show called "House of Payne."
"They had something similar and I wanted to do that for East St. Louis. I am always thinking of ways to impact the community in a positive way," she said.
Vendors were inside the armory Saturday, handing out literature on men's health, domestic abuse, alcoholism, drug abuse, playing baseball and a construction training program. An official from St. Clair County Probation Office also was on hand with information on its services.
The buy-back was preceded Friday night by the passing out of literature at the John DeShields, John Robinson, Orr Weathers and Norman E. Owens housing projects.
Kelly, church members and citizens filled three yellow school buses, donated by First Student, at New Life Community Church at 19th and State streets, and went to the housing projects, walking in groups and handing out literature about the gun buy-back event to people outside the apartments from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.
As they walked, participants chanted, "We're marching for our future. We're going to take our streets back."
In addition to Kelly and several of his investigators, East St. Louis Mayor Alvin L. Parks Jr., East St. Louis Police Chief Michael Floore, and District 189 Superintendent Arthur Culver were part of the crowd.
After passing out hundreds of fliers, the group, all wearing neon orange or green safety vests, headed to Malcolm Martin Memorial Park on the East St. Louis riverfront where they sang songs.
"There is nothing so dangerous about East St. Louis that cannot be overcome," Kelly said.