CHARLOTTE, N.C. - At one Charlotte church unwanted guns are going in and people with gift cards are coming out. It’s part of a Christmas Gun Exchange, which was brought back by the pastor at New Life Fellowship for the 9th year.
“I know police officers who tell me, thank you. Thank you Pastor Kee because we stare down the barrels,” said Pastor John P. Kee from New Life Fellowship Center.
The annual Christmas tradition allows guns to be exchanged for up to $100 in gift cards. The program was brought back this year as the Queen City tops 100 homicides in 2019. According to CMPD, the majority of those homicides involved guns.
“You want the wonderful story. You want to say my town, my town, my city, but to be known now as I am afraid to go there or I am not coming to Charlotte because I heard about the crime,” said Pastor Kee.
Pastor Kee tells FOX 46 Charlotte he decided to bring back his gun exchange long before Charlotte’s homicide rate hit new highs. It was March 28 of this year when the pastor heard about 27-year-old Kendal Crank. CMPD investigators say she was killed driving down North Tryon Street on her way to school, when she was caught in the crossfire of a gun battle between two groups.
“I think that murder, I don’t know why. It just really hit home for me. I made up my mind back then, you know what? I really really really am going to go after it this year,” said Pastor Kee.
As of Friday afternoon nearly two dozen guns had been turned in. The church isn’t after legal gun owners, but guns that are laying around and accessible to young people.
“We know those guns will not jack a family going to the mall, or a kid going to a party,” said Pastor Kee.
The pastor believes the majority of guns in the hands of teens are used for all the wrong reasons.
“Because someone bumped me at the mall? I think we need to have a conversation. It can’t just be Pastor Kee at Christmas, taking guns off the street. What can we really do to bring the temperature down a little bit,” said Pastor Kee.
All the guns collected are on a no questions asked basis. Once the take back is over, all the guns will be turned over to the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office.
The drive runs through Saturday at noon. Anyone who wants to get rid of their gun must make sure it is unloaded and in a clear bag.
New Life Fellowship Center is located at 1337 Samuel Street. You can call 704-804-2125 for more information.