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Two rocket launchers at gun buyback didn't surprise LAPD chief

 LAPD Chief Charlie Beck shows off one of two rocket-launchers turned in during Wednesday's gun buyback program. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck was not surprised that the city's gun buyback event this week collected two rocket launchers.

Beck said he's used to military-style weapons being turned in at such events. He noted that neither of the launchers had rockets in them so they did not pose a danger.

Still, he said such weapons have no place on the streets of L.A.

"Those are weapons of war, weapons of death," Beck said. "These are not hunting guns. These are not target guns. These are made to put high-velocity, extremely deadly, long-range rounds down-range as quickly as possible, and they have no place in our great city."

The buyback yielded 2,037 firearms, including 75 assault weapons and two rocket launchers, officials said. The total was 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 replenish the pot.

The gun buyback was moved up from its usual Mother's Day date in response to the massacre Dec. 14 that claimed the lives of 26 people, including 20 students, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

"As you can see to my right and left, these weren't just guns that weren't functioning anymore," 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 that there were still many guns 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, 363 shotguns and 75 assault weapons. The weapons will be melted down.

He said that 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 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.

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--Richard Winton

Photo: LAPD Chief Charlie Beck shows off one of two rocket-launchers turned in during Wednesday's gun buyback program. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

 
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About L.A. Now
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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