Officers from the Santa Barbara Police Department collected nearly 240 guns at the annual Anonymous Gun Buyback on Saturday, trading weapons for gift cards at the Earl Warren Showgrounds.
Officers collected 127 long guns, 106 handguns and five assault rifles between 8 a.m. and noon Saturday. One additional gun was accepted after the event ended, according to an organizer, bringing the total number of weapons surrendered to 239.
The event, now in its sixth year, is organized annually by the Coalition Against Gun Violence to give community members an opportunity to turn in unwanted weapons. The process is completely anonymous, and community members simply drive through the Earl Warren Showgrounds lot, pop the trunk and allow SBPD officers to remove the weapons before driving away. This year, participants received a $100 gift card to Smart and Final for every long rifle and handgun, and a $200 gift card for every assault rifle.
Following Saturday’s collection, the SBPD will check the serial number on each weapon to see if it was involved in a crime or was stolen. Then, the weapons will be transported to a facility in Los Angeles where they are destroyed and turned into scrap.
Officer Aaron Baker of the SBPD told the News-Press following the event Saturday that the department is always open to collecting weapons at any time of the year. He said if someone has an unwanted weapon in their home they would like to get rid of, they don’t have to wait for the next buyback event — they can simply bring it to the station and officers will take care of it.
“If someone feels uncomfortable having a weapon in their home, the fact that we’re here to take that weapon from them with no questions asked, and allow them to walk away with a gift card to the local store, it seems to ease a lot of burden from some of these people,” Mr. Baker said. “And if nothing else, that’s huge. Whether we solve a crime or get someone’s stolen property back, the fact that we’re taking away a pressure that people are feeling just from having a piece of metal at their house, it’s a big deal. And it’s a service that we can continue to provide.”
Various City and County officials attended Saturday’s event in support of the buyback effort, praising those who handed over their weapons in order to form a safer community.
“One less gun is our goal,” Christina Pizarro, the president of the Democratic Women of Santa Barbara, told the News-Press. “We find a way to help people remove guns from the home in a safe and anonymous way.”
James Kyriaco, a member of the Goleta City Council, acknowledged last week’s burglary at the Goodland Guns shop in Goleta during his comments on Saturday, noting that many residents feel anxious knowing that those guns have yet to be found.
While officers are still searching for the missing weapons, he said Saturday’s event allows the community to breathe a little easier knowing that 239 weapons will not contribute to violence in the community.
“What’s so wonderful about what happened today is there’s 239 fewer points of anxiety,” Mr. Kyriaco said. “There are 239 accidents that won’t happen today or some day in the future because of the work of the coalition, because of the support of the city, because of the support of our county partners.”
The City of Santa Barbara donated $10,000 in support of this event, topping the list of supporters. Other supporters included Supervisors Das Williams, Gregg Hart and Joan Hartmann, Carpinteria Mayor Wade Nomura, Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte, the City of Goleta, District Attorney Joyce Dudley, the Democratic Women of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee and Smart and Final.
During her comments, Ms. Dudley marveled at the number of weapons collected on Saturday, pointing out that more than two dozen guns handed over were “toy” weapons, like BB or pellet guns. She said that though these guns are not real, it can be very hard for an officer to tell the difference, and it can lead to very devastating outcomes.
“If a law enforcement officer comes upon a situation and sees a gun, and believes that gun to be a real gun — many of these toy guns look so authentic, I couldn’t tell the difference — so many devastating things follow that interaction,” Ms. Dudley said. “So I’m actually celebrating the fact that we got so many of those guns off the street, and out of people’s hands.”
The district attorney added that when thinking about gun violence and guns in the home, three incidents come to mind — suicides, inadvertent killings of loved ones and homicides. By surrendering weapons, the community members who participated in Saturday’s event made a “big difference,” Ms. Dudley said.
“I want to thank every single one of those people that got up this morning, put the guns in their car and (came) down here,” Ms. Dudley said. “They’re all heroes in my mind.”