More than 2,000 firearms -- including 75 assault weapons -- were collected Wednesday during the first Los Angeles gun buyback since the shooting deaths of 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
The buybacks, which began in LA in 2009, offer gift cards in exchange for firearms. Buybacks were conducted Wednesday in Van Nuys and at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
A total of 2,037 firearms were collected, bringing the number of firearms collected since the program began to 9,979. Weapons collected Wednesday included 901 handguns, 698 rifles, 363 shotguns, and 75 assault weapons, according to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office.
A rocket launcher also was surrendered.
Gun owners who surrendered weapons received Ralphs gift cards. The value of each card depended on the type of gun surrendered. Assault weapons were exchanged for $200 gift cards. Gift cards valued up to $100 were offered for handguns, rifles, and shotguns.
"Too many things are happening today," Denise Jones, who turned in a gun, told NBC4 Wednesday. "You don’t know if someone is gonna get upset and if they know you have it, they go for it. Anything could happen. I just thought it’d be a good thing to turn it in."
When they arrived at the gun buyback location -- set up in a drive-through configuration -- participants were greeted by personnel who gave them instructions on how the guns will be removed from their vehicles. Police officers then took possession of the surrendered guns and the owners were offered a gift card.
The gun buyback is usually conducted in May, but organizers moved the date to December in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The figures were announced on the same day that Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck issued a stern warning to those who might consider celebratory gunfire when 2012 turns into 2013.
"Please spend New Year's Eve with your families; spend New Year's Eve with your friends. Don't spend it my jail or (county Sheriff) Lee Baca's jail," Beck said. "If you fire into the air, that's my promise to you: You will get to spend the new year in the big house."