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L.A. gun buyback nets 1,700 weapons, including grenade launcher

May 11, 2009 | 12:31 pm



A gun buyback program that trades gift cards for firearms netted nearly 1,700 weapons in Los Angeles over weekend, including 40 assault-style weapons and a rifle with a grenade launcher.

The grenade launcher rifle, which did not have a grenade in it, was delivered to the Los Angeles Police Department's Topanga station as officers across the city distributed gift cards for handguns, rifles and shotguns. The anonymous drop-off program netted AR-15s, Uzis and AK-47s. Stacks of weapons filled a parking lot at police headquarters this morning.

Officials on Saturday handed out 1,302 gift cards worth $130,200 for Ralphs grocery stores and Visa credit in exchange for weapons. Officers collected 841 handguns, 539 rifles, 276 shotguns, 40 assault-style weapons plus the rifle with the grenade launcher.

"We were surprised at the quality of some of the weapons," Deputy Chief Charlie Beck of the LAPD said. He added that all the weapons will be melted down.

The Valley’s Devonshire station, which covers areas such as Granada Hills, Northridge and Winnetka, collected the most firearms, about 171 guns. According to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, more guns were taken off the streets in Los Angeles than there were shooting victims in the city all of last year.

The mayor instituted the program in the wake of a similar program by Sheriff Lee Baca, which netted hundreds of weapons across the county. The sheriff’s Century station netted more than 700 weapons last year alone.The program also led to the delivery of a 20mm artillery shell at the Santa Clarita sheriff’s station.

The L.A. gun buyback program is part of a collaborative effort by the LAPD, the Los Angeles city attorney’s office, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and community-based organizations. It is funded by a grant from Ralphs and the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Last year, more than 1,500 people were victims of gun violence and far too many were victims of gang violence," L.A. Police Chief William J. Bratton said. "The department clearly recognizes that it is in the best interest of our city for the LAPD to seek creative and effective ways to work and establish meaningful community relationships to lower crime and to reduce fear and public disorder.”

Individuals can still voluntarily turn in a firearm to any Los Angeles Police Department Community Police Station without receiving a reward card. Anyone choosing to drop off a firearm to a police station should transport it unloaded and secured in a locked container or stored in a vehicle trunk.

-- Richard Winton

More photos: Gun buyback in L.A.

Photos: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times