Monday, May 9, 2011

2,000-plus guns recovered in annual buy-back program

LOS ANGELES - The city took control of more than 2,000 firearms during its annual gun buy-back program over the weekend, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced today.

The event, held Saturday at a half-dozen locations across the city, yielded 91 assault weapons, the largest cache of that most dangerous weapon in the program's history, though the overall take was lower than last year, according to city officials.

The buy-back haul was 953 handguns, 688 rifles and 330 shotguns in addition to the assault weapons, along with one anti-tank rocket launcher recovered in South Los Angeles.

"People are tired of the gun violence. They're tired of seeing the kind of carnage that's left behind when assault weapons like these are used to maim and kill," Villaraigosa said.

About $175,000 in Ralphs supermarket gift cards were given out in exchange for the guns. About $25,000 worth of cards were left over.

"Make no mistake about it, L.A. is safer than its been in decades, but still we suffer from gun violence far to frequently," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said. "I went to bed last night at about 11 p.m., got up about 6 a.m., and in just that short seven hours, three Angelenos were wounded by gunfire ... That's not unusual."

With this year's gun buy-back program, "We made a statement that this is not a city that is ruled by the gun," Beck said. "This is a city that is ruled by law, ruled by thinking people, ruled by community."

The number of guns obtained was down from last

year's event, which took in more than 2,500 firearms, but was up from 2009, when 1,700 guns were handed over to the LAPD.

Villaraigosa attributed the decline in gun buy-backs to the success of the program in past years and an earlier start time.

Beck said the city will run background checks to make sure none of the turned-in guns are stolen. The vast majority will ultimately be melted down. In past years, the melted guns have been used for art pieces and for construction rebar, and officials said that will likely be the case this year.

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