LAPD gun buyback nets about 775 weapons, officials say

Weekend gun buyback event nets about 775 firearms, including 41 assault weapons, officials say

Los Angeles police collected about 775 firearms this weekend at a buyback event, a number officials acknowledged was down but said would still contribute to the city's continuing decline in gun-related violence.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said 41 assault weapons and hundreds of other firearms were exchanged for grocery store gift cards in Mid-City and Van Nuys this weekend. Residents turning in handguns, shotguns or rifles were eligible for $100 Ralphs gift cards; assault weapons drew $200.

In all, Garcetti told reporters, Angelenos have turned in nearly 13,700 weapons since the buyback program began five years ago.

"Nearly every day in this city, we see somebody victimized by gun violence," Garcetti said. "We must do everything we can ... to keep our communities safe and to get deadly weapons off our streets."

Some experts have questioned the effectiveness of gun buybacks, which have occurred in cities nationwide for decades. Critics say that although buybacks may net hundreds of weapons, rarely do they yield the types of firearms that are likely to be used during crimes.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck defended the program, saying it was an "integral piece" of the city's effort to reduce gun violence, along with community building, gang intervention  and smarter policing. 

The number of people shot in Los Angeles has been cut in half since the buyback program was implemented, Beck said. The city was on pace to end 2014 with "well under" 1,000 shooting victims, he said.

"I'm very careful to say that [buybacks] are not the sole reason," he said. "We have multiple layers of things that we do to prevent gun violence in Los Angeles, and one of them is the gun buyback."

The next buyback event would probably take place in May, Garcetti said.

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