UK & World News
US: Guns For Food At Drive-Thru After Shooting
Los Angeles gun owners have traded in their weapons for food vouchers worth up to $200 (£123) in a drive-thru style event brought forward after the Connecticut school shooting.
Long queues formed as people, predominantly men, handed over weapons including assault rifles and Uzis directly from their cars, in exchange for grocery store gift cards.
Police promised there would be no questions asked and by the end of the day 1,016 weapons, among them TEC-9 semi-automatic handguns, WW2 rifles and vintage shotguns, one dating from 1895, had been handed in.
There were events at two locations including one at Van Nuys, north of LA, and demand was so high that officers even ran out of grocery cards at one point.
Gun owners were given up to a $100 gift card in exchange for handguns, rifles and shotguns, or up to a $200 card for automatic weapons.
A couple of pro-gun activists turned out to protest against the Gun Buyback Programme, trying to dissuade owners from giving in weapons to be destroyed.
LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa brought forward the date of the event from next May.
It followed the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, on December 14, in which gunman Adam Lanza killed 26 people including 20 young children.
Sergeant Rudy Lopez of the LA Police Department said the buyback event was going well compared to previous years.
He said: "It's looking very positive. A lot of people are waiting an hour and a half (in line). People want to do something to do their part to get more guns off the streets."
Sgt Lopez also said police would check the weapons handed in, to make sure they are not reported as stolen or lost, and hand them back to their rightful owners if they are.
All other weapons were due to be melted.
The success of the scheme in traditionally liberal LA is in contrast to a claim by the world's largest seller of gun supplies that it cannot keep up with demand as orders for assault weapon and high-capacity magazines skyrocket in the wake of the Newtown school shooting.
Pete Brownell, president of Brownells, said that in a three-day period the company has sold an "unprecedented" three-and-a-half years' worth of inventory of magazines.
Under the buyback scheme in LA, the fact that police were asking no questions was a key incentive. "See that? That's a silencer," said Sgt Lopez, pointing to an assault weapon. "That's illegal. We didn't say anything."
Critics of such schemes have questioned their effectiveness, arguing the weapons surrendered tend to be the least likely to be used in criminal activities, such as guns which are old or malfunctioning.
In the line of cars, a 51-year-old unnamed man said he was turning in four rifles that belonged to his late father.
"The guns have been sitting around, and there's a money incentive, so why not?" he said.
Sandra Lefall, 38, said the Connecticut shooting did spur her to turn in a gun.
"I'm bringing in a 9mm handgun because I want to get it out of the house, because I have teenage children. I would hate for them to do what that guy in Connecticut did," she told the LA Times.