The Guns for Opportunity program officially launched in Braddock Tuesday night with 26 guns turned over to Allegheny County Sheriff’s deputies. Before the official 4 p.m. start time, nearly a dozen guns had already been surrendered.
The trade-in is an initiative of Boilermakers Local 154 through which a person can turn in a firearm, no questions asked, and in return will receive full training in the union’s welding program – an education that is valued at up to $50,000.
“I’m just trying to get a job and better myself,” said Cameron Cannon, a 24-year-old McKees Rocks resident. “I hear this is a great opportunity, we researched it and I’m here to apply myself to this fine situation.”
The “better myself” reason was given by several of the young men who turned in guns Tuesday. The goal of the program is to get guns off the street and help individuals who may be on a dangerous path in life get on track and ultimately get full-time work.
All of those who turned in a gun received a token and an instruction sheet. They are to take that token to the Boilermakers Local 154 building, and must pass a urine test before being admitted into the training program.
The trade-in program primarily targets black at-risk youth, but there was a bit of diversity among those who turned out. Trevor Straus likes to work with his hands and has been interested in a trade, but couldn’t afford trade school.
“As soon as I heard, ‘trade in a gun no questions asked,’ you know, I took that opportunity right there,” said Straus.
But, some had questions about the program. A group of family and friends of victims of violence were there, asking the Boilermakers several questions.
“It’s one thing to bring individuals down and you’re guaranteeing them training, but the biggest crimes that are happening are economic crimes, so how many of these individuals receiving training are going to be guaranteed employment?” asked Leonard Hammonds, who was also concerned about transportation issues for those involved.
Boilermaker’s Bernie Duffy said there is a high demand for welders in the region, but a lack of qualified talent, so as long as a person is willing to put in the classwork, they should be able to get a job.
"They gotta go to school, do the bookwork, they gotta come down to welding school, they waived the GED for them because we know some of the kids in the area are dropouts of school, but we're trying to give them a better outlook on life, you know? Put down the guns and pick up the opportunity to become a Boilermaker," said Duffy.
This was the first trade-in event and was done in cooperation with Braddock and Allegheny County. A second event is slated within the next few months, most likely in Homewood in cooperation with the City of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Police and the Boilermakers.