PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Earlier this month, the Boilermakers Local 154, citing increased gun violence, announced a program where guns would be surrendered in return for training in the union’s welding program.

Tuesday was the first day of collections and it was successful. Before they even opened, people were waiting to turn in firearms.

“We probably had 25 or 27 people show up already and turn in guns,” Bernie Duffy, of the Boilermakers Union, said.

You may have heard of gun-buy-back programs. Well, this was guns for jobs.

It’s the first time the Boilermakers Union teamed with the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office and local officials, collected guns and in exchange, provided an opportunity to become a welder.

“This is an opportunity for them to turn in a gun and become a legitimate person in society, here. Instead of killing these, these kids killing each other. They have an opportunity to end up making a decent wage,” Duffy said.

“As soon as I heard trade-in a gun, no questions asked,” Trevor Staus said.

Each person who turned in a gun was given an application and time to show up for a drug test.

The program, however, will also help with drug and alcohol treatment through the union if needed.

The welding training will take about six months and pay anywhere from $20-$24 an hour to start.

“Experience of welding and hopefully getting a job after I get out of school. I know welders get paid pretty well a year,” Straus said.

The union is already planning to hold a similar event in the coming weeks in Homewood.

“You turn the news on every night and that’s all you hear is these kids killing each other,” Duffy said. “I think more crafts should step up and give people a chance to make honest living.”

“This is definitely an opportunity its definitely hard to find jobs out here. So, I hope this will help me,” Straus said.

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Heather Abraham