NEW BEDFORD - Most people would want to avoid the police if they were trying to get rid of an illegal firearm, but that wasn't the case on Saturday in New Bedford.

In an effort to reduce the amount of weapons on the streets of the Whaling City, the New Bedford Police Department held a Gun Safety Exchange Program at their Rockdale Avenue headquarters.

Officers rolled out their mobile Command Center to the parking lot to conduct the physical exchange of the weapons. Lieutenant Ricard Rezendes said that the Saturday program saw the return of mostly standard handguns and rifles, as well as some pellet guns.

"We've had a few people just drive up and get out of their vehicles with assorted weapons. I've seen a couple of hand guns and a couple of rifles while I've been here," Rezendes said. “We've done a number of these programs over the years and it's an important thing that we do. We want to minimize the amount of weapons that are out there on the street.”

The program ran under a “no questions asked” policy, meaning that anyone who turned a weapon in, illegally owned or not, was allowed to leave regardless of circumstances. In a press release, the NBPD explained that they want to encourage city residents to turn in guns, and said “one fewer gun on the streets means one less opportunity for violence and tragedy.”

According to Deputy Chief Paul Oliveira, some of the turned-in firearms aren't from people with gang affiliations or criminals, but from average people who still had an old gun from a deceased family member, or perhaps found it after moving into their current home.

“People are saying that they've had a firearm in their house and they didn't know what to do with it, so this gives an opportunity to put the firearm back in safe hands, and we can properly dispose of it,” Deputy Chief Oliveira said.

Oliveira says that a lot of these unwanted firearms could easily be taken from an innocent person's house and brought onto the street in a simple break-in.

New Bedford Police also allowed for those without an active firearms license to call the department before heading to the event, to avoid the chance of being pulled over and prosecuted for illegal transportation of a firearm on the way to the exchange.

“We're trying to do all the little things to keep guns off the street and this is a helpful way to do it. People bring in their firearms and in so doing, they reduce the possibility that one might be used in a crime,” Mayor Jon Mitchell said while at the program. “We have to do it and these things have proved successful, and we're going to continue to do them.”

Everyone who turned in a firearm was rewarded with a gift card to an area business.

Rifles collected by NBPD at the Gun Exchange Program. Tim Dunn/TSM
Rifles collected by NBPD at the Gun Exchange Program. Tim Dunn/TSM

More From WBSM-AM/AM 1420