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Sheriff’s gun buyback in Compton draws hundreds

January 21, 2013 |  3:16 pm

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department hosted a gun buyback in Compton.
Five shopping carts filled with shotguns and two plastic crates full of pistols lined the edge of a shopping center parking lot in Compton, where the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department hosted its first gun buyback day since 2009 on Monday.

A steady stream of cars began arriving at the shopping center at 9 a.m., an hour before the buyback was to begin, to trade in weapons for gift cards to Ralphs or Target.

Deputies, following a "no questions asked" policy, examined firearms and priced them based on the type of weapon and whether or not it worked: $200 for assault weapons; $100 for operational handguns, rifles and shotguns; $50 for parts or non-working weapons.

By 2 p.m., more than 250 weapons had been dropped off, Det. Fernando Gonzales said, including nearly a dozen assault rifles.

"No one is challenging people in terms of the right to own a weapon," Sheriff Lee Baca said in an interview with The Times. "But how many pistols do you need?"

The buyback was the second in as many months in L.A. County. In late December, the Los Angeles Police Department collected 2,037 firearms at a similar buyback, including 75 assault weapons and two rocket launchers.

Both buybacks follow increased discussions about gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14 that left 27 dead.

"It gets another unnecessary gun off the street," said James Stevens, 59, of Norwalk, who traded a .25-caliber pistol for a $100 Ralphs gift card. He said gun control had been on his mind since the Sandy Hook shooting, and he pulled the gun out of his closet because he wasn't using it.

The Sheriff's Department held its first buyback in 2005 in Compton and held one annually after that until 2009. Between 2009 and 2012, the department didn't have enough money to finance the buyback, Baca said.

"But we can't afford to not do it," Baca said. This year, the department paid $50,000 from the narcotics asset forfeiture fund. Mark Ridley-Thomas contributed $25,000 from his discretionary fund.

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-- Laura J. Nelson in Compton

Follow Laura Nelson on Twitter.

Photo: The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department hosted "Gifts for Guns" in Compton, where participants Monday surrendered firearms in exchange for gift cards to Target or Ralphs. Credit: Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times

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