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A day-long gun buyback event held on Dec. 26 in Los Angeles garnered 2,037 firearms – among them 75 assault weapons and two rocket launchers – according to published reports.
Many of those who brought guns received Ralphs gift cards in exchange, until the city’s money ran out and a private donation through the city controller made up the difference, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told the Los Angeles Times.
“Perhaps the most honest testament to the success of yesterday’s program can be seen in the 166 weapons that were surrendered for nothing,” Villaraigosa noted at a news conference. He has called for a national assault weapons ban and for amending the California assault weapons law to close loopholes.
The total collected was almost 400 more weapons than were gathered in a similar event earlier this year. The gun buyback was moved up from its customary Mother’s Day date following the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six adults were murdered. The gunman and his mother also died.
The city gave citizens participating in the event a $100 Ralphs gift card worth up to $100 for handguns, shotguns and rifles, and a $200 gift card for assault weapons as classified by the state of California.
The event, which Villaigarosa introduced in 2009, took place this year from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena and the Van Nuys Masonic Temple. The weapons collected in the buyback will be melted down for scrap, according to Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.
To date, the effort, which has grown each year, has taken more than 8,000 guns off the street. This year's event wasn't even the first time a rocket launcher has been turned in -- one was collected last May. In 2011, more than 1,600 firearms, including 53 assault weapons, were gathered.
Operating stores throughout Southern California, Compton, Calif.-based Ralphs is a division of The Kroger Co. in Cincinnati.