Firearms advocates picket L.A. gun buyback
A handful of gun enthusiasts and gun collectors picketed the Van Nuys gun buyback event for most of Wednesday with signs reading "Criminals Love Gun Free Zones" and "Free People Ought to Be Armed."
Some picketers used traffic cones to amplify their voices and called the buyback a fraud. They urged those waiting in line to keep their guns.
"They're using our tax money to take our guns," cried Bruce Boyer of the Sons of Liberty - L.A., a local gun rights group.
"These officers take their guns home at night," he added. "Why shouldn't you?"
A handful of gun collectors and workers from gun stores joined the picketing - attempting to convince those in line to sell them their guns rather than turn them in.
The wait at the gun buyback lasted up to two hours for some, but the crowds thinned rapidly about 2 p.m., when officers began telling those in line that they were out of gift cards.
"I'm not giving this away for free," Sam Ferrell of Reseda said as he took a drag of his cigarette while waiting in the driver's seat of his truck.
Ferrell said he was hoping to sell his stepson's handgun. He was willing to take a deal, but not willing to give it away.
"There are too many kids being killed by these things," he said, adding that he didn't plan to turn in any of the guns he keeps for protection but that he was glad to keep the handgun out of his stepson's hands.
Ferrell said he wasn't surprised to see such great turnout - especially given the recent shootings in Newtown, Conn., and upstate New York. Still, he said, the right to own a gun is important for personal protection.
"I need my gun, but not everyone who has one needs one," he said. "A lot of the guns out there now I'm happy to see being turned in."
Ferrell remained hopeful that there would be gift cards remaining when he got to the front of the line. Smoking Kools, he slowly inched forward in his truck.
Half an hour later, he still sat, about 20 cars from the front of the line.
By 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, officials said they had collected 850 guns in Van Nuys, and more than 750 guns in South Los Angeles.
The city moved up its annual gun buyback in response to the deadly elementary school shooting in Newtown. It was initially scheduled to occur several months from now.
The city is offering up to $100 in Ralphs gift cards for handguns, shotguns and rifles, and up to $200 in gift cards for assault weapons. The buyback events were scheduled to end at 4 p.m.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa created the gun buyback program in 2009. So far, it is credited with getting nearly 8,000 firearms off the streets.
-- Wesley Lowery