MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The city of Minneapolis is hoping a gun buyback program will help curb violent crime.

The number of homicides have gone down in Minneapolis since last year but the total number of shootings are up 46 percent. The city of Minneapolis hosted two gun buyback locations Saturday to try to encourage gun owners to turn in their weapons anonymously in exchange for Visa gift cards.

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“Had a couple firearms in my safe that hadn’t been used for a lot of years and I figured, good as place as any,” John Murphy, from New Hope, said as he left a gun buyback at a fire station in north Minneapolis. “It was an easy process.”

The program was a collaboration between the nonprofit Pillsbury United Communities and the city of Minneapolis. Authorities from the Minneapolis Fire Department and the Minneapolis African American Professional Firefighter Association were at a fire station in north and in south Minneapolis to collect the surrendered weapons.

Minneapolis Police said both gun buyback locations had to shut down around six hours early Saturday after running out of gift cards. It’s estimated around 150 firearms were collected between the two locations.

The buyback program will be part of a new campaign called “Art Is My Weapon: A Minnesota Installation of Guns In the Hands of Artists.”  The guns will be decommissioned and given to local artists who will make art showing the impact of gun violence.

“If we can get guns that people no longer want to have around their house off the streets to where they cannot be stolen from houses and used in crimes that’s a good thing,” Minneapolis Police Officer Corey Schmidt said.

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Some gun owners were skeptical of the program’s effectiveness.  One anonymous gun owner said he received $200 in gift cards for his firearm and plans to use the freed up funds for a new gun.

“I just don’t feel that a criminal is going to come up to a fire department with a bunch of police around it and turn in a gun,” he said.

Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus and Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee released a statement saying in part:

“It is long past time that the City of Minneapolis works on addressing violent crime using effective, proven strategies rather than continuing to focus on the failed gun control strategies of the past.”

Still, others think the gun buyback could help.

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“For this to work people don’t want to get questioned and they promoted it as no questions asked so that’s what people are looking for,” Murphy said.

Kate Raddatz