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Peninsula fathers, Roger Lee and James Cook, wanted to do something against gun violence. So they helped spur a gun buy-back program in East Palo Alto on Feb. 23. George Kiriyama reports.
Last December, Roger Lee was sitting in his Palo Alto home watching the faces of emotional parents as they grieved and cried on national television in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
"The event makes you sick to your stomach," Lee said. "It was a horrendous, horrendous tragedy. Like everybody we struggled with how to respond."
Lee knew he had to do something, but what?
Not too far away in his Palo Alto home, James Cook felt the same way.
"What if it would happen nearby me?" Cook asked himself.
Lee sprung into action. He formed a non-profit organization called Protect Our Children. Cook heard about it and asked Lee if he could help out. Both men are fathers of elementary school children in the Palo Alto Unified School District. They thought of their own children and knew their safety and security were a top priority.
"We felt it was appropriate to also take action into our own hands and try and do what we could to help protect our own children," Lee said.
Their idea was a gun buy-back event. Their mission is to raise $50,000. Enough money to give to those who turn their guns into the police.
"I think there's a clear desire on the part of gun owners to give back their weapons and their motivated for a variety of reasons," Lee said. "But regardless of what the reason is, it appears there's a lot of interest in people selling their guns and making the community safer."
Lee reached out to police departments in Palo Alto, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto. They agreed to help out without hesitation. For the first time ever, three departments are coming together to take guns off the streets.
"No questions asked," Officer Veronica Barries, East Palo Alto Police spokeswoman, said as she explained the process. "You come in. We take the gun. An officer will accept the gun. We'll go ahead and give you the cash. So there's cash, no questions asked, so we'll go ahead and just accept the gun."
Depending on the type of gun, a person could expect to receive anywhere from $100 to $300 in exchange for their weapon.
"To me we gotta do something," Cook said. "I know it will be effective because I know we will get guns off the street."
Their goal is to collect at least 500 guns. They believe that will make a difference.
"I think we will all sleep better at night knowing that within five miles of where we live and where our children go to school, if there's three, four, five hundred fewer guns in that community, I think we will all feel safer," Lee said.
The three-city gun buy-back event will happen at the East Palo Alto City Hall on Feb. 23. It will go from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.