Police in Los Angeles were surprised Wednesday when the city's gun-buyback program yielded two rocket launchers and 75 assault weapons. The one-day event was able to take a total of 2,037 guns off the streets, almost 400 more firearms than were collected during a similar one conducted this year.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told the Los Angeles Times so many people showed up at the two gun-collection stores that the city ran out of the supermarket gift cards that were used as incentives for people to turn in their weapons. He estimated that about three-quarters of the people who responded to the city’s call felt safer because the buyback program had taken their firearms off the street.
"Those are weapons of war, weapons of death," Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck said at a news conference Thursday. "These are not hunting guns. These are not target guns. These are made to put high-velocity, extremely deadly, long-range rounds downrange as quickly as possible, and they have no place in our great city."
CBS Los Angeles reported that since the “no questions asked” buyback program began in 2009 there has been a 39 percent dip in gang crime and a 33 percent drop in shots-fired distress calls.
"Perhaps the most honest testament to the success of yesterday's program can be seen in the 166 weapons that were surrendered for nothing," Villaraigosa said.
It’s obviously worrisome that rocket launchers are present in the city, but officials were encouraged that those weapons were turned in. A A Ralphs grocery-store gift card worth $100 was doled out for each handgun, rifle, and shotgun turned in, while a $200 card was given for every California-classified assault weapon.
Los Angeles holds an annual buyback around Mother’s Day, but the city decided to move up the event in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., this month.