A gun buy-back program sponsored by the Fairfield Police Department on Saturday not only took 92 guns off the streets, but also comforted the mother of a slain Fairfield councilman.
“We are grateful to the people who came to donate their unwanted weapons to us,” said Teresa Courtemanche of the Matt Garcia Foundation, an event partner. That’s a few fewer guns that could be used for violence, she explained.
“The gun used to shoot Matt was bought at a garage sale,” she pointed out. “Maybe if we had this (program) back then, maybe he wouldn’t have been shot.”
Fourteen years ago, in September, 22-year-old Garcia, the city’s youngest councilman, was shot dead in Cordelia following mistaken identity. Gene Combs and Henry Don Williams were later arrested and convicted for her murder.
Garcia loved Fairfield and saw great things for the community, Courtemanche said, and both are achieved through her foundation. Thus, his involvement in the arms buyback event.
The program, which also included partnerships with Faith PAC and the Solano County District Attorney’s Office, was held at Mount Calvary Baptist Church.
Although the official departure time was 9 a.m., a line had begun to form before that, signaling the police to move on.
“We opened 15 minutes early,” said Jeremy Profitt, a police support officer.
This was a good thing, because within an hour more than 60 rifles, shotguns and handguns had been recovered, along with weapon parts and ammunition.
For their articles, donors were rewarded with gift cards. An estimated $10,000 worth of cards was donated by the district attorney’s office as part of its asset forfeiture program, assistant district attorney Matt Olsen said. The Matt Garcia Foundation approached the officials, who quickly agreed.
“Of course we wanted to help out,” Olsen said.
It’s been years since the police department held a similar event, Profitt said, so partnering with the Matt Garcia Foundation and other groups was a no-brainer.
The purpose of redemption, he said, is security.
“People have guns they don’t know what to do with and we didn’t want them to get stolen,” he said, because those lost guns could then be used in crimes.
The weapons themselves could be unwanted, broken, perhaps the property of a deceased loved one. Buyback, Profitt said, is a simple way to get rid of guns.
He spoke of a man who brought an AR-15, the type of firearm used in the recent mass shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas, which killed nineteen students and two teachers and injured 17 others.
It seems the man had a bad feeling about the gun.
“He said he didn’t want them in the community anymore,” Profitt recalled.
Lots of people dropped off their items and left, not picking up gift cards. Some brought multiple guns.
The anonymous event promoted community and education as the officers, all firearms instructors, also shared information and handed out free padlocks.
Padlocks are also available at the Fairfield Police Department counter, 1000 Webster St.