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Rocket launchers, military weapons left at L.A. gun buyback

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Two rocket launchers and 75 assault weapons were collected Wednesday as part of Los Angeles' gun buyback program.

"Those are weapons of war, weapons of death," LAPD Chief Charlie 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 downrange as quickly as possible, and they have no place in our great city."

The one-day program netted a total of 2,037 firearms, 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 horrific massacre Dec. 14 that claimed the lives of 26 people, including 20 students, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

PHOTOS: L.A. gun buyback

"As you can see to my right and left, these weren't just guns that weren't functioning any more," 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 many guns still remain 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 and 363 shotguns. The weapons will be melted down.

He said 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.

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

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.

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-- Richard Winton

Photo: LAPD Chief Charlie Beck shows Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa a rocket launcher turned in during Wednesday's gun buyback event. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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