"Organizers collected a total of 163 guns
that will soon be
and used for scrap metal."
By Debbi Baker , UNION-TRIBUNE Originally published December 20, 2010 at 1:33 p.m., updated December 20, 2010 at 4:26 p.m
SAN DIEGO — It took San Diego police officers only three hours on Monday to give away all of the $9,000 worth of grocery store gift cards they had to hand out in exchange for people turning in unwanted guns.
“We had a huge turnout,” Sgt. Kurt Grube said.
It was the third year that the United African-American Ministerial Action Council of San Diego has sponsored the event aimed at curbing gun violence.
In exchange for the unloaded guns, which had to be in working condition, owners were given one $100 grocery card for handguns or rifles and $200 for assault rifles.
The gun exchange went from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and when it started a long line of cars already snaked around the block outside the ministerial council’s headquarters in Chollas View.
In the first hour, police officers collected more than 30 weapons, including an Uzi submachine gun, an AR-15 and a homemade rifle, Capt. Tony McElroy said.
By the time the officers ran out of gift cards, 142 weapons had been collected, Grube said. A total of 163 guns were collected in the five-hour period.
Some people turned in more than one gun and others declined to take a gift card, he said.
Even after the cards were gone, people continued to turn in weapons, Grube said.
Pat Whitfield, 59, of City Heights traveled an hour to turn in an old rifle that used to belong to her dad. The in-home caregiver took a bus, then walked and got lost, and eventually took a cab to the council’s building on Market Street.
“I just wanted to get rid of it,” Whitfield said.
Erik Sjoberg, a married 22-year-old from National City, said he made the trek to turn in a sniper rifle. Sjoberg, a mechanic and car painter who has been out of work for two months, said he wanted the gift card to buy groceries.
The event started in December 2008 after Monique Palmer, 17, and Michael Taylor, 15, were fatally shot on a Valencia Park street corner by suspected gang members, said Pastor Gerald Brown, who coordinates the exchange.
The deaths of the high school students sparked outrage throughout the community and resulted in a vow to try to end the violence, Brown said.
The first exchange occurred just weeks after the students’ deaths, and another was held last December. In the first two years, 343 guns and one grenade were handed over, and $10,000 to $15,000 in gift cards were handed out, Brown said. The money comes from private and public donations, he said.
“We are changing a mind-set and empowering community members to do something good,” Brown said.
Police check all of the guns collected against a stolen weapons database. So far, none has shown up as stolen.
“We’re not trying to diminish anyone’s constitutional right to bear arms,” McElroy said. “But if we can prevent one weapon from getting into the hands of someone who will use it in some type of crime, then we’ve done a good thing. We’re trying to save lives.”
All of the weapons will be destroyed.
Peace be upon you
People line up to turn in guns to cops - SignOnSanDiego.com
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Residents Exchange Guns For Gift Cards - San Diego News Story - KGTV San Diego