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5,000 guns from buyback events melted into rebar, officials say

5,000 guns from buyback events melted into rebar, officials say
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca tosses a rifle onto a pile of 5,495 firearms at the Gerdau Steel Mill in Rancho Cucamonga. The guns, collected in Southern California buyback events, were melted down and made into steel reinforcing bar (rebar) for construction uses. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

More than 5,000 weapons collected in various buyback programs were melted down into steel rebar Tuesday morning, authorities said.

Officials from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Santa Monica, Inglewood and Culver City police departments oversaw the 20th annual "gun melt" at Gerdau Steel Mill in Rancho Cucamonga, the sheriff's department announced.

The mill annually donates its furnace and workers for the event, the department said.

The sheriff's department's buyback program -- which offers grocery store gift cards in exchange for weapons -- began in Compton in 2005. Now several municipalities offer such events throughout the year.

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Many agencies reported record numbers at buyback events following the December 2012 shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. Authorities collected 2,037 firearms -- including 75 assault weapons and two rocket launchers -- at an L.A. event. In San Diego, officials gathered 364 weapons.

Most recently, sheriff's officials received 152 firearms at a June buyback in East L.A.

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