Officer Codey Fabian inspects a rifle that was dropped off at the Waterville Police Department on Saturday during a “gun giveback” event. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — Laurier Morrissette handed over two long guns to police Officer Blake Wilder, one of which was a .22 Hornet.

Morrissette, 70, admitted he was emotional about parting with it, as the 80-year-old, .22 caliber rifle was his late grandfather’s and holds sentimental value.

But Morrissette and his wife, Jan, of Hallowell said they wanted to dispose of the gun, used primarily to shoot woodchucks and pests, in a safe way.

“I had stopped hunting long ago,” Laurier Morrissette said. “It’s hard to give it up, but I don’t want it to get into the wrong hands. My grandfather and I were very close. But it’s a gun, and I don’t use it and I don’t want to.”

The Morrissettes were among several people who drove to the Waterville Police Department’s parking lot Saturday to dispose of firearms as part of a “gun giveback” event hosted by both the department and the Maine Gun Safety Coalition. Similar events were held Saturday at several other law enforcement agencies statewide. The coalition started holding the event in 2019, but this is the first year Waterville had taken part.

The event was advertised by Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey as a way to enable gun owners to safely dispose of unwanted firearms and ammunition that they do not feel comfortable selling or giving away. Free gun cable locks and gun safety pamphlets with tips on how to safely store guns and ammunition at home were offered.


By 12:30 p.m., 2 1/2 hours into the event, Waterville police had collected 35 firearms, ammunition and some old fireworks. The Gun Safety Coalition is working with the Portland Metal Works Guild and Sweden-based Humanium Metal on the project. The firearms will be cut up and shipped to Pittsburgh where the metal will be repurposed into high-end jewelry, including watches, and sold at a premium, according to Geoff Bickford, executive director of the Gun Safety Coalition.

Money generated from the sales will then be returned to the coalition, which will use it to continue buying safe gun storage devices such as gun locks, to be given away, he said.

As Wilder collected firearms and ammunition Saturday, Waterville police Officer Codey Fabian worked inside a van parked in the lot, listing their serial numbers. Three members of the Gun Safety Coalition, Betsey Remage-Healey, and Gretchen Gardiner and her mother, Sue Kistenmacher, handed out free gun cable locks and gun safety flyers and kept a roster of the number of firearms received and the towns from which the donors came.

They drove from places including Waterville, Bangor, Hampden, Rangeley, Hallowell, Benton and South China.

Officer Blake Wilder removes a rifle from the back seat of a car Saturday during a “gun giveback” event in Waterville. People from throughout the region brought firearms, ammunition and fireworks to the Waterville Police Department so that they could be properly disposed of. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Steve Chalifoux, 66, of Bangor, drove up in his pickup truck and donated shotguns, ammunition, and old bottle rockets and firecrackers.

“The guns were my father’s and he passed away and ended up being at my mom’s and she passed away,” Chalifoux said. “I’ve been hanging onto them about 15 years or so — at least 10.”


He said he appreciated that the firearms would be cut up and used for a good purpose.

“This is a good service,” he said. “It’s a safe place, because they’re not resellable. It’s a great cause.”

Dick Giard, 79, of Chesterville brought 10 long guns and two pistols. He said he had been trying to figure out what to do with them, learned about the gun giveback event on television and decided to drive to Waterville to donate them.

“I don’t use them anymore,” Giard said. “I haven’t used them in many, many years. They’re just getting rusty, collecting dust. Now, I have an empty gun safe.”

Most people who gave up firearms said they preferred not to comment. Wilder said soon after the event started at 10 a.m. that two widows had brought guns that had belonged to their late husbands.

Several firearms received were rusted out and not safe to be fired again, Wilder said.


“We had a 75-year-old who didn’t feel comfortable with a handgun anymore,” he said. “He wanted that out of the house. So far, it’s been the older generation (donating). I haven’t had any from the younger generation.”

Gardiner, of the Gun Safety Coalition, said some people reported they had grandchildren at home and, after learning of multiple instances where children were injured by guns, decided to get rid of them. A pharmacist, Gardiner said Saturday’s gun giveback event is similar to drug takeback events that are held so people may dispose of drugs safely so they don’t get into the wrong hands.

One woman who drove up with another person and asked not to be identified donated four little bullets.

“They came for free gun locks,” Gardiner said. “They said they’d take as many as I could spare. I gave them six.”

Most of the long guns taken in were old. Wilder received a rusted .410 Winchester shotgun.

“This is the worst one out of all of them,” he said.

Officer Codey Fabian inspects a rifle that was dropped off Saturday at the Waterville Police Department during a “gun giveback” event. He was recording serial numbers on firearms as well. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Despite the timing, the gun giveback effort was not held in response to either the mass shooting in Buffalo in which 10 were killed or the school shooting 10 days later in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two adults dead. The coalition organized the event well before the shootings occurred. It started in 2019 as what was intended to be an annual giveback event, but the pandemic interrupted it, according to Bickford. That first year, more than 500 firearms and more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition were turned in, he said.

Besides the Waterville Police Department, agencies taking part were the Bath, Brunswick, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Saco, Topsham and Yarmouth police departments, as well as the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Department. The Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics helped sponsor the event.

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