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Thirty years ago, John Kee carried several kinds of guns with him for protection while selling drugs in north Charlotte’s Double Oaks community: a .38-caliber pistol, a 9-millimeter handgun or a sawed-off shotgun.

Now the 51-year-old leads a church in that neighborhood, New Life Fellowship Center, which just completed its seventh annual Christmastime program of offering gift cards in exchange for people dropping off their guns at the church.

Kee offered a simple reason for the program. “I want to clean up what I poisoned.”

The project grew out of another program, where young men could go to the church on Samuel Street and play basketball, checkers or anything else to keep them off the streets at night, Kee said. He knew they sometimes carried weapons, and decided to offer gift cards to help get rid of guns in the community.
The program brought in about 120 guns the first year, and they were turned over to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police to be destroyed, Kee said. The church plasters signs around the city to attract support for the program, and there are no questions asked about the weapons.
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