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LAPD takes in 1,700 weapons in gun buyback program

A grenade launcher and other AR-15s, Uzis and AK-47s are among the arms traded for gift cards.

May 12, 2009|Richard Winton and Maeve Reston

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

The grenade launcher AR-15 rifle, which did not have a grenade in it, was delivered to the Los Angeles Police Department's Topanga station over the weekend 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. The weapons were stacked in a parking lot at police headquarters Monday morning.

"We were surprised at the quality of some of the weapons," said LAPD Deputy Chief Charlie Beck.

Stolen weapons will be returned to their legal owners, and the rest will be destroyed

Officials handed out more than 1,300 gift cards Saturday worth $130,200 for Ralphs grocery stores and Visa credit in exchange for weapons.

They collected 841 handguns, 539 rifles, 276 shotguns, 40 assault-style weapons and the rifle with the grenade launcher.

The Valley's Devonshire station, which covers areas that include Granada Hills, Northridge and Winnetka, collected the most firearms -- 171 guns. Some locations ran low on gift cards.

"These are weapons whose sole purpose is to maim and kill people," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said at a Parker Center news conference. He added that more guns were taken off the streets in Los Angeles than there were shooting victims in the city all of last year.

Gun buyback programs have attracted attention in cities across the country, but studies question their effectiveness in reducing violence. Richard Rosenfeld, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said an analysis of gun buyback programs in St. Louis in 1991 and 1994 found no demonstrable effect on firearm homicide and assault rates.

The mayor's office started the program after a similar program by Sheriff Lee Baca netted hundreds of weapons across L.A. County. The sheriff's Century station netted more than 700 weapons last year alone.

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richard.winton@latimes.com

maeve.reston@latimes.com

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