Standing in front of an array of assault rifles, shotguns, handguns and even a couple of rocket launchers, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck, Mayor Eric Garcetti and other city leaders Friday showed off the results of their latest gun buyback program.
Held at Exposition Park and Facey Medical Group in the San Fernando Valley on Saturday, the city handed out Target gift cards in exchange for 788 guns with no questions asked, Garcetti said.
“Each of these guns represents one less opportunity to take a life, or to lose a life,” Garcetti said during a new conference at LAPD headquarters near two long tables holding weapons.
The city’s buyback program began in 2009 and has resulted in 16,005 guns taken off the streets, Garcetti said.
Although some studies have concluded that gun buyback programs are ineffective at reducing crime, Beck credited the program as one of the key reasons that gun violence has dropped in the city since the program began.
“I know there are a number of studies that show just gun buybacks don’t affect the number of victims shot, but we don’t do just gun buybacks. This is part of the greater strategy,” Beck said. “It’s also not just a crime issue. Most gun violence is suicide.”
In 2008, over 1,600 people were shot and hit by a bullet in Los Angeles, but the number fell by around 500 last year, Beck said. The city also experienced 384 homicides in 2008, but the number was 290 last year.
“The proof is in the pudding. The proof is that we have a less violent society in Los Angeles because of gun buybacks, because of smart legislation, because of good cops, and because of the strong will of the people to recognize that guns are what turns a minor dispute between young people on the street from a shouting match to a funeral,” Beck said.
Councilman Mitchell Englander, who is also a reserve officer with the LAPD, spoke about how gun violence has impacted him personally. Englander’s uncle was shot and killed by gang members in 1994 during a robbery and he said the incident drove him into public service.
“This gun buyback program, make no mistake, is going to save lives, period. Guns end up in the wrong hands far too often everyday,” Englander said.
The buyback program at Expo Park was held in Councilman Curren Price’s 9th District, and he and Garcetti both worked at the event. Price said the line at times was around the corner.
“It’s amazing, the number of weapons, large and small, some anti-tank weapons — and they all indicate we have a real problem in our communities,” Price said.
The event was funded by the nonprofit Gun by Gun, which raises money from private donations for gun buyback programs.
Ian Johnston, the organization’s founder, has also been impacted by gun violence, as his father was shot and killed in San Francisco when he was 10 during a street robbery. Johnston said 95 people donated around $10,000 to fund Saturday’s buyback.
“Their donation to this campaign does more than just get a gun off the street, it really makes a statement about what kind of a community do they want to live in and what they value,” Johnston said.
—City News Service
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