A united maneuver between the Chula Vista and National City police departments, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office presented the public with the opportunity to get unwanted guns out of homes in hopes of keeping them off the streets.
Despite wet and windy weather, South Bay residents lined up early at the South County Courthouse on Saturday to dispose of weapons at Chula Vista’s first gun buy-back event. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., law enforcement retrieved nearly 90 weapons, ammunition, toy guns and one discharged military AT4 single-use rocket launcher.
As an incentive, participants received a $50 Albertsons gift card for each firearm and $100 for assault weapons.
Lead coordinator for the event, Lt. Roxana Kennedy, said the wet weather might have limited the numbers of people participating.
“But that number is important in preventing guns potentially landing in the hands of criminals,” she said.
Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano said the joint effort is key to the success of the event and demonstrates how well law enforcement agencies in San Diego County work together for a common goal.
“If it saves one life, then it is worth it,” Bejarano said.
Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox said she was delighted getting weapons off the streets, preventing them from getting into irresponsible hands.
“It’s not about chipping away at someone’s Second Amendment rights and people who legally own guns,” Cox said. “This is about people who have guns in their homes, in their attic or in their back closet who don’t want them anymore.”
In January, Chula Vista Council member Patricia Aguilar asked City Council to implement this program after she noticed many communities participating in gun buy-back programs after Sandy Hook.
“It’s such a cool thing because it is all voluntary,” she said. “I grew up in a neighborhood with a lot of drugs and violence and maybe that is why this event means so much to me.”
National City Police Chief Adolfo Gonzales said thieves break into homes, steal guns and then commit other crimes.
Keeping guns out of criminal hands is a good community service.
“That is what this event is all about,” he said. “Retrieved guns go to a facility in Riverside, are taken apart, melted down and recycled.”
People who bring in weapons could possibly be victims, said San Diego County Undersheriff Ed Prendergast, but the real motivation is they can drop them off with no questions asked.
“Guns are coming from all over the South Bay,” he said. “It’s a reminder for people with guns in their homes to keep them secure, locked and inaccessible so people can’t come in and steal them.”
Kennedy said participants did not have to report to the Department of Justice, with the police department recording the weapons as destroyed in the system.
“Citizens who want their weapons, we are all for that,” she said. “But a weapon in the hands of someone who is not familiar with it can lead to tragic accidents.”