LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced on Monday that the city's annual gun buyback program will be pushed up to the day after Christmas, a move apparently spurred by the massacre at an elementary school in Connecticut. The buyback offers Ralph's gift cards up to $200 in exchange for guns, no questions asked. Lolita Lopez reports from Burbank for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Dec. 17, 2012.
The massacre at an elementary school in Connecticut has renewed calls to close loopholes in California assault weapon laws and prompted efforts by law enforcement to restart gun buyback programs.
The Los Angeles Police Department is planning a gun buyback program the day after Christmas, said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith, a department spokesman.
The effort was originally scheduled for Mother’s Day, but the LAPD bumped the event up at the request of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Office due to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School where a 24-year-old man fatally shot 20 children and 6 adult staff members before committing suicide.
“In light of what happened we want to … do everything we can to get any guns off the streets,” Smith said.
At a press conference Monday, Villaraigosa said LA mourns with Newtown and he used the shooting as a call to action to make schools safer.
“No community should experience the trauma of losing so many young, innocent children in the way that this town and this nation have had to suffer,” Villaraigosa said. “Right now is the time for all of us to act.”
Beck announced a plan to assign LAPD officers to patrol daily the 740 kindergarten, elementary and middle schools in the LA Unified School District.
“We’re a city that recognizes that our children are our most precious, precious resource,” Beck said. “We can’t let a tragedy … 3,000 miles from here affect the education of our children.”
LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said he has fielded numerous calls and emails from concerned parents about school safety and reaffirmed the district’s commitment safety first.
He said that the district has never cutback on security even though the LAUSD has experienced devastating budget cuts.
He said district officials are reviewing policies and procedures and has sent a small contingent to Newtown to assist school officials there and also hopefully take away lessons learned.
He said when classes resume after winter break on Jan. 7, counselors will be on hand at schools to help people cope with the tragedy.
LAUSD Schools Police Chief Steven Zipperman said he had a conference call with 15 police chiefs and the and officials at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who also offered to provide enhanced security at LAUSD schools that fall outside of Los Angeles.
“There’s no question, they’ve already stepped up,” he said. “Student safety is a top priority.”
For the gun buyback program, which police credit with taking thousands of guns off the streets, police offer gift cards of $100 for pistols and up to $200 for assault weapons to individuals who can anonymously surrender their weapons -- no questions asked, police said. The guns are then destroyed.
The news comes as more people are looking to buy guns. Shop owners from San Diego to Portland say customers fear more restrictions will make it difficult to purchase weapons in the future. Locally, employees at Gun Gallery in Glendale said first-time buyers are up.
Recent mass shootings in Connecticut, at an Oregon mall and the Mayan calendar predicting the end of the world on Dec. 21 have all combined to instill fear in people who are arming up, said an employee at the Gun Gallery.
California Senator Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, joins Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in announcing new gun control legislation to strengthen state and federal assault weapon bans.
"No one ought to be carrying around these semi-automatic weapons that should have 20 rounds of bullets," said Yee.
He said he would reintroduce a bill in the coming weeks to close loopholes in the state's assault weapon ban. He also is proposing requiring yearly background checks, mental health evaluations and forcing gun locks to be used not just purchased.