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LA gun buyback nets 1,600 weapons, police say

December 26, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A guns-for-groceries exchange event in L.A. on Wednesday netted 1,600 firearms, including 60 assault weapons, police said.

Long lines of cars and people formed to trade in their weapons for a free Ralphs gift card to police, no questions asked and no IDs needed. The amount of the gift card depended on the type of firearm. For example, handguns got $100 and assault rifles got $200. The LAPD said it had $100,000 worth of donated gift cards ready to give out.

Drop-off locations were at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena and the Van Nuys Masonic Lodge. The events ran from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The LAPD said it had ran out of gift cards by closing time.

"[People] will have an opportunity to give back those guns, those assault weapons, just guns they don't need or don't use. Give them back so we can destroy them and make sure they're not stolen or used in a crime," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

While many critics called the program a failure and claimed it gives people free money for old weapons that don't work, officials disagreed. They said the program has saved lives by taking dangerous assault weapons off the street.

"From a little tiny .22 pistol that an elderly woman turned in that was her mother's who passed away to brand new-appearing AK-47s, parts for AR-15s, shotguns, rifles," every donation makes a difference, LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith.

Since the program began in 2009, it has collected 8,000 guns surrendered by citizens. The weapons are melted down to rebar other metal products. Officials said violent crimes have also gone down by 33 percent in the last four years.

The LAPD typically holds the event in May, but it was moved up in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., which killed 20 children and 6 adults.

Since the shooting, people around the U.S. have been involved in a gun control debate. President Barack Obama has also asked for proposals to reduce gun violence. Authorities said the guns that shooter Adam Lanza, 20, used in the Newtown shooting were all obtained legally by his mother. Lanza used the guns to kill her and to carry out the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14.

"Newtown, Conn., has really got people to really think and realize that we have way too many guns on the streets. For people to turn them in anonymously is something we can do locally," said Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas.

Hefley Gulley of Baldwin Hills said he too was motivated by the Newtown tragedy to give up a firearm.

"I decided to give it up because of the tragedy back east in Connecticut," said Gulley. "It was very sad so I decided to give it up."

The LAPD said it hopes to hold another gun exchange event in May.


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