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L.A. gun buyback yields rocket launcher, assault weapons

May 14, 2012 | 12:51 pm

Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

A $2,000 pair of pocket pistols and a military rocket launcher -- sans rocket -- were among the 1,673 firearms that Los Angeles residents traded in for gift cards in the city’s gun buyback this weekend.

Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa showed off an array of handguns, rifles, shotguns, rifles and assault weapons collected at six locations and piled before them Monday at a news conference outside the Los Angeles Police Department Administration Building.

Some of the weapons were functional and some were not, they said, but most still had lethal potential.

“You’re not hunting ducks with this stuff,” Villaraigosa said. “Too often, these weapons are used to hunt and shoot down people -- and that is why we are here today.”

Gun owners traded their unwanted firearms for gift cards from Ralphs or Visa -- up to $100 for handguns, shotguns and rifles, and up to $200 for assault weapons. Participants could turn in guns anonymously, with no questions asked.

This year’s buyback, an initiative of the mayor's Gang Reduction and Youth Development Office, yielded 791 handguns, 527 rifles, 302 shotguns and 53 assault weapons, including one with a 50-round clip and silencer. Last year the effort netted 2,062 firearms.

The buyback includes an educational outreach campaign involving police, gang prevention and intervention agencies, and community and religious leaders.

“In the four years we have been doing this, we have taken almost 8,000 weapons off the streets of Los Angeles,” Beck said, adding that gun violence has dropped nearly 20%.

Despite such efforts, there still are an estimated 3 million firearms in Los Angeles, Beck said.

He said he has “no problem” with legal gun ownership, but that unwanted firearms are often an attractive nuisance and can fall into the hands of people who might do harm to themselves or others with them.

“Your homes are safer without unwanted guns,” he said.

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-- Kim Christensen

Photo: Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa look over weapons that were among 1,673 firearms Los Angeles residents traded in for gift cards in the city’s gun buyback this weekend. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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