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Los Angeles Gun Buyback Program Breaks Record

A one-day gun buyback event in Los Angeles on Wednesday gathered 2,037 firearms, including 75 assault weapons and two rocket launchers, officials said. The total was nearly 400 more weapons than were collected in a similar buyback earlier this year.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the collection at two locations was so successful that the city ran out of money for supermarket gift cards and got a private donation through the city controller to bolster the pot.

The gun buyback was moved up from its usual Mother's Day date in response to the massacre Dec. 14 that claimed the lives of 26 people, including 20 students, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

"As you can see to my right and left, these weren't just guns that weren't functioning anymore," Villaraigosa said at a news conference Thursday morning. "These were serious guns -- semiautomatic weapons, guns that have no place on the streets of Los Angeles or any other city."

The mayor described the event as a success, but acknowledged that there were still many guns on the streets.

Hundreds lined up in cars to get Ralphs gift cards in exchange for different types of guns. Villaraigosa said the LAPD collected 901 handguns, 698 rifles, 363 shotguns and 75 assault weapons. The weapons will be melted down.

He said that nearly three-quarters of those turning in the weapons said in an informal survey that they felt safer with the weapons off the street.

"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.

Police Chief Charlie Beck said it was the most successful gun buyback event since the city began the program.

"Those are weapons of war, weapons of death," Beck said, motioning to a selection of military-style weapons on a display table. "These are not hunting guns. These are not target guns. These are made to put high-velocity, extremely deadly, long-range rounds down-range as quickly as possible, and they have no place in our great city."

Beck acknowledged that the weapons would not be checked for connections to crimes before being melted down. He said the sheer number would make that difficult, and he does not want to deter people from turning in firearms.

Villaraigosa again Thursday called for a national assault weapons ban and for strengthening the California assault weapons law to close loopholes.

Copyright 2012 - Los Angeles Times

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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