The Los Angeles Police Department has moved up its annual gun buyback program so that Angelenos can take "concrete action" after last week's tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Gun owners will be able to turn in their firearms and ammunition with no questions asked. In exchange, they will receive a grocery gift card for amounts based on the value of the gun. Handguns, rifles and shotguns will get up to $100, and assault weapons will get up to $200.
"Cities and states must join with the federal government to do everything we can, as quickly as we can, to keep our communities safe," LA Mayor Villaraigosa said at a press conference this week. "It is absolutely critical to provide Angelenos with concrete actions they can take today to make our city safer tomorrow."
The city's fourth annual buyback will take place Dec. 26 at both the Los Angeles Sports Arena in downtown Los Angeles and the Van Nuys Masonic Temple.
Critics of the program say that because police don't do ballistic checks on all the weapons, weapons used in crimes go unnoticed. However, according to the LAPD, since the inception of the program in 2009, nearly 8,000 guns have been turned in, and the city has seen a 39% reduction in gang crimes, a 33% reduction in the number of “shots fired” incidents, and 241 fewer shot victims.
"When compared to the numbers of guns that have been taken off the streets during the same time period it certainly can be suggested that the program is having a positive impact on the safety of our communities," the department said on its blog.
Click here to find out how you can help the Sandy Hook victims' families.
Meanwhile, San Juan Capistrano Councilman Derek Reeve is controversially calling on local schools to arm willing staff, teachers, and parents. "As I have sat in many schools here, there is simply no deterrent to a deranged killer intent on doing harm," Reeve said to HuffPost.
In a letter to the San Juan school district urging for tightened security and arming willing teachers, Reeve wrote:
An individual armed with a single simplistic firearm can easily walk onto campus without challenge, walk into an unlocked classroom and begin murdering dozens of children. What should the teacher do? What should teachers in neighboring classrooms do? By the time the Sheriff’s Department arrives four minutes later, 30 innocents are already dead.
Opponents of gun control claim that conceal-carry laws and guns in the hands of the right people lead to a decreased gun death rate.
However, most of California's legislators disagree and want to see stricter gun control. LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and West Hollywood Mayor Jeffrey Prang signed a letter Wednesday from the U.S. Conference of Mayors calling on Congress to pass Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) bill to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The letter also urges Congress to close loopholes in the national background check system, including strengthening penalties for straw purchases of guns (when someone buys a gun for a person who is barred from doing so himself).