A woman toting an oversized purse crossed the police lines at the corner Civic Center Drive. Reaching into her bag, a Santa Ana police officer pulled out a silver revolver. Instead of slapping the cuffs on her, he handed her a gift card.
Santa Ana’s first gun buyback Saturday attracted troves of residents looking to exchange their guns for gift cards.
Motorists coiled around the corner of Santa Ana Stadium like a fast food drive-thru as officers collected guns from their trunks and piled them in a trashcan.
About 150 guns were turned over within the first hour, including a sawed-off shotgun, an oiled up Mac-10 and dozens of rifles.
“There’s a possibility that some of these guns have been used in crimes, but they’ll be destroyed—end of story,” said Sgt. Eric Paulson.
After the weapons were cleared of any rounds, officers carried them off to be inspected and logged.
Stolen weapons recovered from the buyback will be returned to their owners, Santa Ana Spokesman Jose Gonzalez said.
Santa Ana residents received $100 for a shotgun or handgun, and $200 for an assault rifle.
By 10 a.m., cans were overflowing with rifles and shotguns. An SKS semi-automatic rifle with two banana clips was just one of the illegal weapons collected during the event.
A small stock of Saturday night specials, semiautomatic pistols and concealable handguns piled in a crate next to them.
Target, Northgate Gonzalez Market, Walmart and Stater Bros. sponsored the event that was paid for by $80,000 seized in a drug bust.
SAPD expected to receive about 400 weapons, the same number netted by Compton police in a similar program in January.
Saturday’s event was in response to the shooting rampage earlier in the week that left four dead, including the gunman, Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas said.
“This has nothing to do with gun control. It’s about responsible gun ownership,” Sen. Lou Correa said, adding that the program is a model for other cities.
Because most crimes are committed with stolen guns, Rojas says, any program that gets weapons off the street increases public safety.
“This isn’t the end-all, or silver bullet to remedy gun violence, but we know that the guns returned here won’t be used in a crime ever again,” Rojas said to a group of reporters.