Saluda pastor’s gun buy-back program a success

SALUDA—Almost two weeks after her church’s gun buy-back program, the Rev. Hillary Taylor is still elated with the results.

“We bought back 20 guns in total,” said Taylor, pastor of Bethany and Zoar United Methodist churches in Saluda. “If we had bought only 10 guns, I would have been ecstatic.”

Nine of the purchased guns came from persons living somewhere other than Saluda.

“Individuals from Columbia to Inman who read about our program were so impressed that they drove all the way to Saluda to turn them in,” Taylor said. “The reasons for turning them over were as diverse as the people who brought them.”

At the Sept. 7 “no-questions-asked” event, people who turned in guns received Walmart gift cards valued at $100-$200, depending on the type of gun.

“We passed out a total of $2,100 in Walmart gift cards,” Taylor said. “We will be saving remaining cards for another gun buy-back program next year. This could not have been accomplished without many individuals and churches who donated to this project.”

Following most gun buy-back events, the purchased weapons are destroyed. In this effort, however, the guns will be disabled and repurposed in the Saluda community as gardening tools or artwork—playing out Isaiah 2:4: “... they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

“We hope the next event will be more comprehensive in terms of mental health first aid,” Taylor said. “This is a topic many people are excited about, and I look forward to connecting churches and local businesses with the needs of the Saluda community in the future.”

Taylor already has been in communication with another church and a nonprofit organization interested in planning similar gun buy-back programs in other rural areas of South Carolina. An avid hunter and gun-owner herself, she hopes events like these will raise awareness about the rising suicide rates in South Carolina and ways to promote firearm safety.

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