Los Angeles

Girl Scout Partners With Police for West Side’s First Gun Buyback

It was one of the questions that came up for Jenny Baum when time finally came to move her father into assisted living from the house that had been home for decades: What to do with dad's old shotgun and 9 mm handgun?

Her sister told her about a gun buyback event Saturday in Culver City, and when Baum drove up, police officers took the firearms from her trunk, as they had already done with dozens of others.

Then, there was something her sister had not mentioned.

"I laughed when I pulled up and they said, 'Go see the Girl Scouts at the end!'" Buam said.

Indeed, when Baum pulled forward, a local scout, Shelby Hanson, rewarded her with a $100 gift card for each gun.

Police credited Hanson, 17, with coming up with the idea of holding the west side's first ever gun buyback, seeking the necessary approvals from city hall and doing the fundraising to purchase the incentive gift cards.

Like so many of her generation, Hanson had been shaken into activism a year ago by the shooting rampage that claimed the lives of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

It came at a time in Hanson's life when she was searching for a culminating project of her final year as a Girl Scout. She wanted to somehow address the toll of gunfire deaths.

"I kept thinking, 'What can I do?'" Hanson recalled.

Then, she read an article about a Los Angeles Police gun buyback downtown, and began researching what it would take to do something similar on the western side of the metro area. She got Girl Scouts Los Angeles to green light her pursuing this as her Gold Award project, akin to Eagle Scout for boys.

The high school senior met with Culver City's outgoing and incoming mayors. She made a presentation to the city council. She was put in contact with Police Lt. William Browne, who conferred with other agencies in developing the plan for the Culver City Police Department to carry out the actual gun collection safely.

Lt. Browne made arrangement to use the parking lot outside the Wende Museum. Despite the Saturday morning rain, 10-15 cars lined up even before the event began at 10 a.m., and in the next four hours, police collected a total of 65 firearms.

"I think it was very much worthwhile," said Lt. Browne. "It's a great way to assist the Girl Scouts and to help take some guns off the streets, then it's good for us."

The collected firearms ran the gamut from a Browning skeet-shooting shotgun and expensive Glock handguns to cheap Saturday night specials and disassembled pieces of an Uzi knock-off. But most were older guns--like those of Baum's father--that may have been sitting years unused in drawers or attics.

That was fine with Hanson, who said her focus was the risk of kept guns that someday might be found by a child, or someone beset with suicidal thoughts, or a disturbed person contemplating violence.

"It's just important to know that while they may not be in use, there's still a risk to have them in your (home)," Hanson said.

Hanson was quick to thank her parents for their encouragement and support, despite concerns over both the complexity and potential danger of collecting guns.

Kari Hanson, who is also the co-leader of her daughter's  troop, remembers the discussions with police.

"They brought up a lot of issues we never thought about," Kari Hanson recalled. "With their support, we were less worried."

Her daughter did most of the fundraising through social media and elsewhere online. A boost came when west side grocer Albert Vera learned of the effort and offered to match the $2,000 Hanson had already raised, and convinced five fellow merchants to put up an additional $5,000. The gift cards were purchased from Target.

"I'm absolutely all for it," said Baum, who lives in Venice and hears gunfire more than she would like. "Less guns is always better."

During the coming days, police will run the serial numbers of the collected guns to determine if any had been reported stolen or involved in a crime. Those that were not will be destroyed at the Rancho Cucamonga facility which melts down firearms.

The buyback was anonymous. Police did not take names of donors, but many volunteered where they're from--mostly Culver City and the west side, but many from the San Fernando Valley, at least two from the Inland Empire, and one drove up from Orange County.

"Girl Scouts can do anything, and everything," said Kari Hanson proudly. "Even a gun buyback."

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