Representatives of the Coalition Against Gun Violence, elected officials and a police chief gathered Friday afternoon to encourage participation in the upcoming Anonymous Gun Buyback.
“We had a tragic reminder (of gun violence) earlier this year with the deaths of three young men on the streets of Santa Barbara,” Interim Santa Barbara Police Chief Bernard Melekian said, referring to the shootings in January.
“And we’re working hard with our community partners and our police officers to ensure that does not happen again,” he said during the news conference on the steps of Santa Barbara City Hall.
“The buyback program is another step in the process to try to reduce violence,” Chief Melekian said.
The voluntary event is set for 8 a.m. to noon Aug. 21 at Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara.
People donating their guns will receive a $100 Smart & Final gift card for each handgun or rifle and a $200 gift card for an assault weapon. Those attending are asked to place their unloaded firearms in their trunks before coming to the showgrounds, and Santa Barbara police will safely remove them from the trunks, according to the coalition.
The coalition reported that five previous Anonymous Gun Buyback events resulted in the donation of almost 1,200 weapons.
Officials stressed the event’s importance during Friday’s news conference.
“We all want to save lives, and that’s what this is all about,” Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley told reporters.
Ms. Dudley added that the anonymous donors don’t have to worry about law enforcement or the D.A.’s office using fingerprinting to determine if crimes were committed with the guns. She said the goal is to prevent gun violence.
“There’s a story I heard from a grandmother,” Ms. Dudley said. “ ‘My grandson was living with me. I was thinking he might be a gang member. I saw a gun in the closet. I thought he might be mad at me if I turned it in, but I turned it in anyway.’”
Ms. Dudley said the story gives her goosebumps. “That grandmother is a hero.”
First District Supervisor Das Williams said the community “has been affected by the plague of gun violence.”
He said that through burglaries and other methods, guns in homes often find their way onto the streets. “Guns that are used in the commission of a crime often start out as legal guns.”
He noted a gun is 22 times more likely to be used against a resident in a household than to prevent an intruder from harming the homeowner.
Internet research shows that number has been cited by various organizations that support events such as the Anonymous Gun Buyback. It refers to accidental shootings, suicides and criminals who break into homes and find guns.
Mayor Cathy Murillo said Santa Barbara has seen fatalities because of gun violence on the streets. “I would also like to acknowledge that many suicides happen when people who are vulnerable and distressed have access to a firearm.”
Sen. Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, said the number of guns in homes has increased during the past two years. “The reality is we know there are more guns in homes in California than there have been in the last decade.”