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Thousands of LA Citizens Choose Groceries Over Handguns

Hayes Brown
Think Progress / News Report
Published: Thursday 27 December 2012
Since its inauguration in 2009, the gun buyback program has purchased over 8,000 guns from L.A. citizens.
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Thousands of Los Angeles’ citizens lined parking lots yesterday in a chance to exchange their guns for groceries in a city-organized buyback program. The event, normally an annual Mother’s Day event, was pushed up to Wednesday by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in the aftermath of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn.

City officials offered up to $100 in gift cards to a local grocery chain for rifles, handguns, and shotguns, with assault weapons fetching more, up to $200 in cards. Despite moving the date, turnout was extremely high, with the two parking lots where the buybacks took place finding themselves overcrowded at times by eager sellers. In fact, the city found itself surpassing last year’s total of 1,673 guns by yesterday afternoon:

Many came bearing more than one gun. They pulled 22 pistols from the trunk of one white Honda, a haul that earned the driver $1,000.

Two men in a pickup truck with two children in the back seat handed over a rifle, a pistol and a MAC-12, altered with a silencer.

While the majority of the guns retrieved were handguns and other small-scale weapons, at least “a few dozen” assault weapons were taken off the streets as well. One of the first guns purchased in the buyback was a Bushmaster rifle of the same model as those used in the Conneticut shooting and a planned attack in New York where two firefighters were targeted and killed.

Since its inauguration in 2009, the gun buyback program has purchased over 8,000 guns from L.A. citizens, according to Mayor Villaraigosa. While gun buyback programs are not the most effective way to lower gun violence, they do reduce the supply of firearms in a community. Several other communities will be running their own in the near future, including Newtown’s neighboring city Bridgeport.

ABOUT Hayes Brown


HAYES BROWN is a National Security Reporter/Blogger with Prior to joining, Hayes worked as a contractor at the Department of Homeland Security. He’s been a blogger since 2011, and written on international affairs at UN Dispatch and the blog Gunpowder & Lead. Despite actually being born in Washington, D.C., Hayes graduated with a B.A. in International Relations from Michigan State University in 2010.


Here are some elements of a

Here are some elements of a plan in response to the Sandy Hook tragedy and other similar mass murders committed with guns in the US. Each of these has some value, and together would have great value. Some elements are derived from others.

• Ensure state compliance with requirements to post appropriate mental health records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System
• Establish clear reporting guidelines for when and how mental health records are required to be posted in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System so that states can be held accountable for compliance
• Require a full background check in all gun transactions, including private sales at gun shows and online purchases
• Fully fund state technology efforts to comply with the federal background check system requirements
• Require states to comply fully with the protocols of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or threatening to take away their federal funding
• Mandate federal compliance with a presidential executive order directing all agencies to submit records to this instant background check system
• Prohibit the manufacture, sale and purchase of assault weapons and outlawing high-capacity bullet magazines, very large amounts of ammunition, and bullets which have the sole purpose of causing great bodily injury.

Mandatory training on gun safety for gun owners and users.

Mandatory trigger locks and gun safes for gun owners. Installation of gun cabinets may improve gun and ammunition storage practices. Financial assistance to gun owners, such as tax incentives, can be provided to gun owners for this purpose.

Technological fixes so that only the registered owner can shoot the gun.

Make gun trafficking a federal crime, with stiff penalties for those who arm criminals.

Fully fund mental health services.

The military, VHA, and wider medical community should create a trusted mechanism for safely removing and temporarily storing firearms on a patient's behalf with his/her consent.

The issue of guns should be linked to the issue of suicide prevention. Access to firearms is a risk factor for suicide. Firearms used in youth suicide usually belong to a parent.
Reducing access to lethal means saves lives.

Nurses and other emergency department personnel in hospital emergency rooms should provide "Lethal means counseling." This means:
assessing whether a person at risk for suicide has access to a firearm or other lethal means, and
working with them and their family and support system to limit their access until they are no longer feeling suicidal. Psychiatrists should also provide such counseling in their practices. Among families of high risk youth, those who received the counseling were significantly more likely than those who had not to remove or secure the dangerous items. Others who come into contact with suicidal people should also provide such counseling.

Improve the social safety net generally, so that fewer people fall through the cracks.

Tighten rules for mandatory reporters, so that more people with violent potential come to the attention of law enforcement.

Restore funding for the Community Oriented Policing (COPS) program, to put more police back in communities.

Gun enthusiasts police other gun enthusiasts, and learn to notice and act on signs of potential violence. For example, firearm retailers and range owners, can help prevent suicide by

Using guidelines with gun store/firing range owners about how to avoid selling or renting a firearm to a suicidal customer

Encouraging gun stores and firing ranges to display and distribute suicide prevention materials tailored to their customers
Strengthen product liability laws, so that gun manufacturers have at least some liability for the damage that their guns do. Congress enacted a law in 2005 that gives gun manufacturers and dealers broad immunity from being sued. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) shields the gun industry. This law should be rescinded. Before the PLCAA, lawsuits were starting to prod the gun industry to act more responsibly. In 2000, Smith & Wesson, the nation’s largest handgun manufacturer, agreed to a variety of safety conditions to end lawsuits that threatened to put it in bankruptcy. Among other things, Smith & Wesson agreed to put a second, hidden set of serial numbers on all of its new guns to make it harder for criminals to scratch away the identifying markings. But the PLCAA took away the pressure to work on safety.
Gun holders should be required to purchase additional liability insurance to cover gun incidents that cause harm to themselves and other. Proof of insurance should be provided as a condition to purchase a gun. The analogy is to car insurance.
Institutional investors should divest from gun manufacturers.
In the absence of rules governing the design of firearms, regulating the way guns are advertised may be a useful public health intervention. Some gun advertisements include messages suggesting that bringing a handgun into the home is generally protective for the occupants of the home. The best available scientific information contradicts this message. Given this disjunction, regulating those advertisements may be an appropriate response. Under federal law, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has authority to prohibit advertisements that are "deceptive" or "unfair." Under the FTC's deception analysis, the focus is on whether consumers are misled by an advertisement. For a finding of unfairness, the FTC looks for advertisements that may cause substantial injury to consumers. Under either analysis, a strong argument can be made that firearm advertisements promising home protection are unlawful.
Broaden the discussion beyond mental health to include evil people, and learn to recognize the signs of evil.

Increase the understanding of school and college officials, so that they don't hide behind the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in mistakenly thinking they can't do anything about potentially violent students. Similarly, increase the understanding of HIPAA (the health care privacy act), so that practitioners understand that it doesn't mean that potentially violent patients can be ignored or hidden.

Establish a National Institute of Violence Prevention at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to research root causes and community solutions. We should fund the Centers for Disease Control to develop its infrastructure so it can track, assess and develop strategies to prevent gun violence, just as we do with tainted spinach and influenza. Currently NIH is prohibited by statute from covering gun violence as a public health problem.

Overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, so that the influence of big donors will be decreased in politics. This will reduce the pernicious influence of the NRA and arms manufacturers, which are distorting the possibility of good legislation.

Shift to more of a public health emphasis, and encourage passive safety elements, similarly to the way car safety has been approached. People still have lots and lots of cars, but each car is much safer.

Use buy-back programs for guns.

FBI documents obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) under the Freedom of Information Act show that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat even though the agency acknowledges in documents that organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did "not condone the use of violence" at occupy protests. Using similar criteria, gun enthusiasts could be similarly surveilled, monitored, and reported on. In fact, gun enthusiasts, because they possess guns, espouse a willingness to use them, and give as a reason protection from an oppressive government, provide even greater reasons for FBI action against them.

MBRENMAN: A very impressive


A very impressive list of recommendations. I didn't see any I would disagree with.

Looks like they could stand

Looks like they could stand to make the same offer on Mother's Day as usual - there may be enough guns in that town that it would support quarterly buy-back events at least. I hope other cities and localities pick up on the idea!

How many people actually

How many people actually believe that anyone who had the intention of going out and shooting anyone, or who believed they needed a gun for self-protection, participated in this buy-back program? Based on the photo, it looks as if most participants dragged Grandad's long-disused shotgun out of the attic and traded it for some ready cash. A good deal for them, I would assume, though they might well have done better at the nearest pawn shop.

I note that there is what appears to be a rocket launcher or an RPG on the table. This is almost certainly an inert or "de-milled" unit. Possession of a live weapon of this sort is highly unlawful and regulated by any number of present statutes. The same goes for the "MAC-12 with a silencer". "Fake silencers" have long been available for those who absolutely must have "the Rambo look". A real one, as well as a live RPG, would be more than sufficient reason for a speedy arrest by agents of the BATFE, who I presume were present at the event.

Perhaps you are right Dave

Perhaps you are right Dave Moff, about most of the guns being Grandad's rifle from the attic. But if so, there is the possibility that some of those long disused weapons were not stored safely unloaded & with all ammo locked up where children couldn't get at them. As a child, I once visited the neighbor boys home when their parents were away, and was shocked at the number of weapons lining the walls of their basement, and the casual handling of the weapons by the boys who thought it would be funny to intimidate me by threatening me with the guns. I'd no way to know if the weapons were loaded or not, likely they weren't, but there are too many incidents every year of children harming themselves or their peers when they manage to get hold of guns AND their ammo. So if there are fewer chances of that now in LA, I hope they keep doing the exchange.

While such buybacks should be

While such buybacks should be greatly encouraged and publicized, they won't generally be effective UNTIL we make the possession of certain firearms a FELONY. After a generous amnesty period for gun freaks and collectors, possession should be a serious offense, and if the murder of anyone could be traced to a particular gun-owner who was robbed of that weapon because he never turned it in, then he should be cited as an accessory to murder.

But what happens to these guns in the buybacks? Unless they're destroyed and melted down, they might still be accessible to psychotics or angry drunks.

Holy Flamin' pie plates ya'

Holy Flamin' pie plates ya' all!!! Didn't those folks hear LaPeepee from the NRA. "Beware the Zombie Typhoon Plan 9.1 from Outerspace!" First they'll use their weather deflipulators to wreak havok then zombie-ray dead folks back from the grave to scare the ka-geezus out us! And if their plan works, gun sales and stock dividends will fall dramatically and the world will be a better place to raise the kids! "The world bein' a better place to raise the kids" ya' hear?!! That's just downright un-American lefty commie crap ya' all! Don't worry about food! Spend your lunch money on a machine gun. There'l be planty of Zombies to eat. Hail LaPeepee!!!

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