Friday, December 21, 2012
Cars began lining up at around 8 in the morning to drop off unwanted guns at the annual for Guns for Gift Cards exchange held in Southeast San Diego.
Police officers collected more than 360 handguns, shotguns and one Uzi sub machine gun. That is nearly double the average number of guns usually turned in. Anyone who turned in a weapon received a gift card of $50 or $100, based on the type of gun, and was not asked any questions.
Police will check to see if the guns were stolen, but otherwise won't run any other checks on them. The guns will be destroyed.
The exchange was planned before last week’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn., but the tragedy was on everyone’s mind. San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore said the nation needs to improve mental health care if it really wants to prevent violence. He said San Diego’s jail is one of the biggest mental health providers in the county.
"Probably about 25 percent to 30 percent of our inmates are on some type of psychotropic drug," he said. "We get them stabilized, and then they go back out into the community and they don’t have those continuing services. So that’s one of the things we have to focus on."
Lawmakers at the gun exchange acknowledge hardened criminals were not the ones turning in their weapons. But they said if it prevents just one shooting, the exchange is worth it.
Since the program began four years ago, a total of 851 firearms have been impounded, officials said.
An outlay of $10,000 in asset-forfeiture funds paid for the gift cards that will go to those discarding their guns today, according to the Sheriff's Department. There are plans to offer more exchanges in different parts of the county in the coming months.
City News Service contributed to this report.