Thousands of Los Angeles’ citizens lined parking lots yesterday in a chance to exchange their guns for groceries in a city-organized buyback program. The event, normally an annual Mother’s Day event, was pushed up to Wednesday by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in the aftermath of the tragic shooting in Newtown, CT.
City officials offered up to $100 in gift cards to a local grocery chain for rifles, handguns, and shotguns, with assault weapons fetching more, up to $200 in cards. Despite moving the date, turnout was extremely high, with the two parking lots where the buybacks took place finding themselves overcrowded at times by eager sellers. In fact, the city found itself surpassing last year’s total of 1,673 guns by yesterday afternoon:
Many came bearing more than one gun. They pulled 22 pistols from the trunk of one white Honda, a haul that earned the driver $1,000.
Two men in a pickup truck with two children in the back seat handed over a rifle, a pistol and a MAC-12, altered with a silencer.
While the majority of the guns retrieved were handguns and other small-scale weapons, at least “a few dozen” assault weapons were taken off the streets as well. One of the first guns purchased in the buyback was a Bushmaster rifle of the same model as those used in the Conneticut shooting and a planned attack in New York where two firefighters were targeted and killed.
Since its inauguration in 2009, the gun buyback program has purchased over 8,000 guns from L.A. citizens, according to Mayor Villaraigosa. While gun buyback programs are not the most effective way to lower gun violence, they do reduce the supply of firearms in a community. Several other communities will be running their own in the near future, including Newtown’s neighboring city Bridgeport.