(CNS) – The city’s fourth annual Gun Buyback Program netted 1,673 firearms over the weekend, marking a four-year low, it was announced today. Fifty-three assault weapons were among the cache resulting from the event held Saturday at a half-dozen locations across the city.
The buy-back haul also included 791 handguns, 527 rifles, 302 shotguns and one anti-tank rocket launcher. Also recovered were a pair of pocket pistols worth an estimated $2,000 and an illegal belt-buckle pistol, Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the gun buyback alone would not reduce gun violence in the city. He called it a tool in a toolkit that also relies heavily on predictive policing and gang prevention.
“What are assault weapons like these doing on the streets of Los Angeles? I think the answer will be, ‘nothing productive,”‘ Villaraigosa said. “You’re not hunting ducks with this stuff. Too often, these weapons are used to hunt and shoot down people.”
The city offers citizens anonymity for turning in their guns, which are destroyed, eliminating potentially valuable ballistics evidence in past crimes. In exchange, officials argue the city is able to prevent future crimes or accidental shootings by taking guns off the street.
Ralphs supermarket donated $200,000 in gift cards to give out in exchange for the guns.
“Gun buybacks aren’t the only way to prevent gun violence. But when made a part of a comprehensive strategy, which is what we have in Los Angeles, they have proven to be effective,” Beck said, noting that gun violence has declined in the city by nearly 20 percent since the city started the program in 2009. This is an effective method. I absolutely endorse it.”
However, the number of guns obtained was the lowest since the event started and down from its peak in 2010, when more than 2,500 firearms were handed over to the LAPD.
Gun Owners of America Executive Director Larry Pratt called the program “nonsense.”
“Most of the guns are junk, or people would not give them away for well below market value,” Pratt said. He accused city leaders of following a political agenda that could make the city less safe. “The one thing that has been shown to lower crime, other than a police car parked in front of your house, is for folks like me to be walking around with a concealed gun,” he said.
Villaraigosa said the “unwanted” guns turned in during the buyback are more likely to be used in an accidental shooting or suicide than to defend against an attacker.