San Diego police officer Jonathan Bamba holds a 9mm Glock hand gun which was turned in during a gun exchange program. Over 300 guns were exchanged for grocery vouchers.
SAN DIEGO — Gun owners traded more than 350 weapons for grocery vouchers Friday in San Diego as authorities vowed to step up firearms exchanges after the Connecticut school shooting.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said he will expand the no-questions-asked exchanges from south San Diego to other parts of his jurisdiction within six months. His department contributed $10,000 to United African American Ministerial Action Council's annual swap, which is in its fifth year.
“If we can prevent one violent act, save one life, this whole exercise is worth it,” Gore said at a news conference.
Authorities collected 364 guns, up from 312 at last year's swap and 158 in 2010's, said the Rev. Gerald Brown of the nonprofit group that sponsored the exchange.
San Diego is the second California city this week to promote gun swaps after the school rampage in Newtown, Conn. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Monday that the city was moving up its gun buyback event to Dec. 26 from May.
Several San Diego gun owners lined up in a dirt parking lot said last week's shooting rampage was a tipping point.
Lei Anderson, 74, drove nearly an hour from suburban Escondido to trade in a .357 Magnum that she bought in 1986 for target practice and never uses. She suffers a terminal illness and worries that the gun will pass into the wrong hands after she dies.
“I've been meaning to get rid of it but I got lazy,” she said. “I have great-grandchildren and the idea that anything like this could happen to them is just so repulsive.”
Eddie Perez, 73, turned in a .22-caliber pistol that he bought 30 years ago to protect his home. The San Diego man said the thought of his grandchildren being shot terrified him. He now feels safe with a Doberman he bought two years ago.
“All you need to protect yourself is a baseball bat and a good dog,” Perez said.
Gun owners got $50 grocery vouchers for a rifle and $100 vouchers for handguns and assault weapons, funded partly by the sheriff's department and district attorney's office.
Motorists handed over weapons from their car windows or popped their trunks for police officers when they arrived at the front of the line.
“This one will do some damage,” a San Diego police officer said as he carried away a high-powered rifle. “It's a good catch for us, takes one off the streets.”