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Santa Ana hoping for big returns in first-ever gun buyback event

February 23, 2013 | 10:11 am

Santa Ana officials are hoping that the city’s first-ever gun buyback program Saturday will result in a large return of weapons, both legal and illegal.

Residents are being urged to turn in handguns, shotguns and rifles in exchange for a gift card worth up to $100 for use at stores such as Northgate Gonzalez Markets, Stater Bros. markets, Target and Wal-Mart. The return of assault weapons would earn a gift card reward of up to $200, authorities said.   

Residents would need to prove residency in Santa Ana to ensure that gun-sellers from other cities don’t try to unload weapons of lesser value in exchange for gift cards, said Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas.

Rojas said the program was initiated in response to the December killing of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Many residents had expressed a desire get rid of unwanted guns, he said.

“This is something to try to reduce the guns out there ... to get these guns off the streets,” Rojas said.

There have been five gun-related homicides in Santa Ana since the beginning of the year, compared to a total of 11 such murders for all of 2012, the police chief said.

The buyback program was scheduled to run between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Santa Ana Stadium. Residents are asked to transport their weapons to the venue in the trunk of their vehicles and without ammunition. About 30 weapons had been turned in before 9 a.m., Rojas said.

The police chief acknowledged criticism that gun buyback programs were ineffective but praised the intitiative as helping remove at least some weapons that could potentially be used to harm someone. 

“We know these individual handguns will not be stolen,” Rojas said. “They will not be used in a crime in our city.”

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-- Ann M. Simmons

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