ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In their commitment to help reduce gun violence, the Broncos have worked to make an impact in the Denver community over the last eight months with a series of gun buyback events.
Partnering with RAWtools, a nonprofit focused on gun-violence prevention, as well as Denver councilmember Amanda Sawyer and Aurora councilmember Curtis Gardner, the group hosted eight gun buyback events from March through October. Participants could anonymously turn in their firearms at each buyback event by pulling into a drive-thru, where volunteers would remove the guns from their vehicles and disarm them.
In the eight buyback events throughout the year, the program collected over 900 firearms from 448 donors. RAWtools will melt down the guns and convert them into garden tools, which will later be donated back into the community.
"Gun violence is now the number one cause of death of youth in America," Sawyer said. "These buybacks provided an opportunity to change those statistics by reducing the availability of firearms in homes and vehicles, which can help stop firearm deaths related to suicides, accidents, crimes of opportunity and domestic violence. I'll never forget the mother who turned in the gun her son had used to take his own life. She shared that she attended our buyback specifically because she knew the firearm would be turned into a garden tool and used to create and sustain life. This kind of closure illustrates the harm reduction aspect of our buybacks, which was just as important to our residents as the number of weapons taken off the street. These results show we made a difference in our community."
Participants who donated firearms had several reasons for doing so. One in four reported that they were afraid of theft, while 19 percent had concerns about children accessing the firearms. Twelve percent had no way of storing their gun safely, and 36 donors noted that they have previously experienced gun violence-related trauma. Donating their firearms at the buyback events allowed participants to alleviate these concerns, and in some cases, the program was lifesaving.
"Over the course of these eight events, we've heard powerful stories of the difference being made in our communities, including lives saved and mental-health crises averted," Gardner said. "The partnership with Councilmember Sawyer, RAWtools and the Denver Broncos has truly made a difference."
Reducing gun violence is a cause that is important to many Broncos players, as some of them have been directly impacted. Wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland lost his brother to gun violence 10 years ago, and he volunteered at the fourth gun-buyback event at Heritage Christian Center in June.
"I lost a brother in 2012 [to] gun violence, so it was only right for me to come out here, show my support and learn more about gun violence," Cleveland said during the event. "[In] 2012, [my brother] got caught up in gun violence. He was murdered outside of my house. It was just a tough situation to go through, especially at a young age. So, I've been dealing with it ever since, just trying to do more things to try to support this movement and stuff like that."
Cleveland was one of 137 volunteers who dedicated their time to making these gun-buyback events possible. Thirty-eight percent of the volunteers attended two or more events, and members of the community totaled 741 volunteer hours across the eight events.
"The tremendous support of the community who showed up to volunteer, many of them impacted by gun violence themselves, shows the need to not only continue providing opportunities to safely dispose of unwanted firearms, but to provide spaces for our community to be a part of the solution," RAWtools' executive director Mike Martin said. "From the 25-30 volunteers at each buyback, people who shared their story ... and the amazing community organizations and faith spaces that hosted each buyback, I'm grateful for their support."
As part of the club's Inspire Change program, the Broncos awarded $35,000 grants to six organizations chosen by the players in January, including RAWtools. The Broncos' donation to RAWtools was used to support relevant gun donation events and nonviolence programs locally in Denver and Aurora.