AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia is trying to crack down on violent crime by taking illegal guns from criminals with the “Suns out, Guns of Out of the Wrong Hands” program, but one local activist is trying to create a path for giving back illegal weapons that leaves law enforcement out of it.
Philly CheeseSteak Factory is offering a “brown bag special”; ask for it and restaurant owner La-La Alston will put your gun in a brown bag and dispose of it– no questions asked.
Last month, aggravated assaults with weapons were up 14 percent in Richmond County, so for 100 days, the sheriff’s office is offering $200 for tips on who has illegal weapons.
So far, the effort has led to the seizure of several guns and subsequent arrests.
La-La Alston wants to give those with illegal weapons a chance to turn their lives around before it gets to that point.
“This is an opportunity for you to get rid of that gun and say I’m going to start over on my own,” she said. “You shouldn’t have to go to jail to realize that I’ve done something wrong.”
Decades ago, Alston was a gang member herself.
“I want to help people turn they life around like I did,” she said. “I was a sho’ ’nuff dedicated Blood, I was your ride or die chick.”
Now, Alston has devoted herself to ending street violence after it took several of her family members. But unlike the sheriff’s office, she says she wants to focus on self-reformation rather than punishment. She said she’s had at least twenty phone calls from people who want to get rid of their weapons but are nervous about how to do it.
“They’re afraid. They’re calling in to say are you going to get me arrested if I come there?” she said. “I am a part of no sting operation– I have nothing to do with the police.”
The sheriff’s office is aiming to collect 500 guns by the end of the summer, while La-La’s goal is a more modest ten. But she says that every gun collected has the potential to save a life.
“That’s ten mama’s babies who may graduate this year,” she said.
Alston says so far she has only collected one weapon, but she’s still encouraging others to come forward.