LAPD gun buyback nets 778 guns; chief says program cut shootings in half

Some 778 guns were turned in during the Los Angeles Police Department’s gun buyback program this weekend and 11 of those were found to have been stolen, authorities told Tuesday.

Since the program was implemented five years ago, the number of shooting victims has been cut in half, Chief Charlie Beck said. But a recent Los Angeles Times investigation found that nearly 1,200 violent crimes were misclassified as minor offenses, which prompted the LAPD to overhaul its reporting of crime data, the department announced Tuesday.

“These are guns that serve no useful purpose in a person’s life or their household and these kind of guns are the kind that fall into the wrong hands and get used for all the wrong reasons,” Beck said. “Taking unwanted guns off the streets makes the city of Los Angeles safer.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters that since 2009, nearly 13,700 guns have been turned in to the buyback program.

“Nearly every day in this city, we see somebody victimized by gun violence,” Garcetti said. “We must do everything we can … to keep our communities safe and to get deadly weapons off our streets.”

People turning in their guns were offered Ralphs grocery store gift cards in the amount of $100 for handguns, shotguns and hunting rifles, while AR-style rifles netted $200.

Instead of being destroyed with the rest, the 11 stolen guns will be returned to their rightful owners, LAPD officer Liliana Preciado said. Once a gun is turned in, LAPD runs its serial number to determine if it has been stolen. No other analysis, like ballistics testing, is conducted as a way to encourage participation in the buyback.

Beck said that because of the backup in his department’s crime labs, there’s little use in keeping a gun possibly used in a crime anyway and taking those guns off the street to prevent future crime is more important.      

Included in the haul — which offered “no questions asked” amnesty for those wanting to turn in their unwanted guns — were 369 handguns, 228 rifles, 140 shotguns and 41 AR-style rifles, KTLA reported.

The gun buyback program is popular among law enforcement agencies across the country, who, like Beck, believe taking guns off the street reduces violent crime.

The programs in the city and across Los Angeles County have brought in all sorts of weapons, even two rocket-propelled grenade launchers in 2012, the Los Angeles Times reported.   

Authorities claim that unwanted guns in the home, like those passed down from a deceased relative, are ill cared for and can thus easily fall into the wrong hands. 

But some question the effectiveness of gun buyback programs and criticize law enforcement for potentially destroying evidence that could have possibly been used in crimes. 

“Shouldn’t people who want to use gun buy-backs to shred their evidence be subject to the same background check procedures as law-abiding people do when buying firearms from a gun dealer?” said Brandon Combs, president of the California-based Firearms Policy Coalition.

Combs cited a 2004 report by the National Research Council that claims gun buyback programs are ineffective because the people who typically turn in the weapons aren’t the ones likely to commit a crime and the guns turned in are usually not in functioning order anyway.

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