Santa Ana hosts first gun buyback

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Gun control: Residents Respond To Local Shooting.

In the wake of a streak of gun-related violence, Santa Ana leaders exchange gift cards for guns.

HAND OFF: Det. J. Rodriguez passes a pump shotgun to Sgt. Eric Paulson after clearing the chamber of any rounds. (Photo by Eric Lomeli, elDon Sports Editor)

A tattooed woman toting an oversized purse crossed police lines at the northeast corner of Civic Center Drive. While approaching a group of officers she fumbled through her bag. Detective C. Achziger went for his gun and cut her off before she rounded the corner.

Grabbing the bag, Achziger rifled through it and whiped out a stainless steel snub-nose revolver. Glancing back at the woman, he tossed the gun in a crate. Instead of getting the cuffs, she was handed a gift card.

Santa Ana is just one of dozens of cities working to regulate firearms in the wake of a streak of gun-related violence.

“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,” Santa Ana Police Department Chief Carlos Rojas said.

Santa Ana’s first gun buyback in February attracted hundreds of residents looking to exchange their guns for gift cards.

After 20-year-old Saddleback College student Ali Syed went on a rampage last month, killing four including himself, Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer urged the community to come together to end the “17 days of bloodshed” in the county.

“I’ve talked to too many friends and neighbors who are living in fear. It has to stop,” Spitzer said.

Nationally, there were about 14,600 murders in 2011, or one every 36 minutes, according to the FBI. About 1,800 of those murders were committed in California, more than 1,200 with a gun.

Syed’s rampage stretching from Irvine to Villa Park opens another chapter in high-profile mass shootings in Orange County. Last month, former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner was suspected of murdering an Irvine couple inside their garage before leading police on a week-long manhunt that left two police officers dead and three injured. In 2011, Scott Dekraai opened fire in a Seal Beach hair salon where his former wife worked, killing eight and injuring one.

Addressing the recent streak of violence, President Obama proposed a plan calling for a universal background check system, and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, sides with the President, and suggests tightening background checks by eliminating the gun show loophole.

“Americans are tired of all the talk following these senseless tragedies. We owe it to the people we represent to do everything possible to eliminate the unnecessary violence that’s plaguing our communities,” Sanchez said.

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Some believe that an assault weapons ban needs to be both reinstated and more effective.

Because homicide rates did not decrease in 1994 when the ban was in effect, the bill would have to be much stronger this time around, said Alicia Samuels, a representative of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Center for Gun Policy and Research.

Though the focus has been placed on assault weapons, handguns were used in more than 6,000 murders nationwide last year, while rifles accounted for 323, according to the FBI.

Still, 69 percent of Americans favor an assault weapons ban, according to a survey conducted by Johns Hopkins.

Mental health’s connection to gun violence is an issue that has been neglected too long, Sanchez said.

Youth Alive, an Oakland-based violence prevention group focuses on rehabilitating teenagers who have experienced violence and trauma.

“When a young person is exposed to violence, it has an affect on them,” said Anne Marks, Executive Director of Youth Alive, who compared the exposure to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Young adults account for the majority of violent crimes committed with a gun, according to a study by Johns Hopkins. 17-24 year olds were responsible for about 27 percent of murders in 2011, according to the FBI.

Easy access to guns compounds the problem, Marks says.

Getting guns off the streets is the goal of the buyback, says Rojas, noting that stolen guns are frequently used in violent crimes.

The buyback event in Santa Ana is a model for other cities to follow, Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) said.

“I have children, and I understand that we have to be careful,” said Correa. “This has nothing to do with gun control. It’s about responsible gun ownership.”

Reaching into the trunk of a rusty blue sedan, Det. J. Rodriguez pulls out an SKS semi-automatic rifle with two banana clips. Another officer handles a sawed-off shotgun, illegal in California.

At the end of the day, 237 guns were anonymously surrendered.

“There’s a possibility that some of these guns have been used in crimes, but they’ll be destroyed—end of story,” Sgt. Eric Paulson said.

GUN STATS IN AMERICA:

  • 310 — Million guns in the U.S.
  • 15 — Number of rounds an AR-15 can fire in one minute.
  • 36 — Minutes before someone will be murdered in the U.S.
TRADE OFF: Residents swapped guns for gift cards during Santa Ana’s first buyback event held in the wake of a shooting rampage last month. (Photos by Eric Lomeli, elDon Sports Editor)


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