90 guns, 1 rocket launcher exchanged for gift cards during gun buyback operation in Chula Vista

CHULA VISTA - About 90 guns and one rocket launcher were exchanged for grocery store gift cards during a no-questions-asked buyback operation at the South Bay Courthouse in Chula Vista, a police lieutenant said Sunday.

The Chula Vista Police Department, the National City Police Department, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department and the San Diego County District Attorney's Office hosted the five-hour "Guns for Gift Cards" exchange on Saturday, Chula Vista police Lt. Roxana Kennedy said.

Ramon Nozada said he took advantage of the event because he simply has too many weapons.

"When they break in at the house usually they look for a weapon and I want to reduce it to the proper level," he said.

One woman turned in a hunting rifle that had been in her home since the 1960s. She said her husband died a few years ago and that she did not feel safe with it being in the house.

"I wouldn't know what to do with it," she said. "I don't know how to use a gun."

For every gun turned in, a $50 gift card was given in exchange. If someone turned in more than five guns or if the gun was an assault-type rifle, the person would get two $50 gift cards.

"We're seeing multiple weapons turned in… a lot of long weapons, rifles, 38 semiautomatic weapons," said Chula Vista police Chief David Bejarano.

In a statement before the event, Bejarano said, "This event represents the collaborative efforts of several law enforcement agencies who share a common goal of keeping our communities safe. We welcome the opportunity to remove unwanted firearms from our streets and possibly prevent yet another senseless act of violence."

"I think because of people's heightened awareness right now of the tragedies that we've seen, people are more inclined to come forward and give them," said San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department used asset forfeiture funds to purchase the gift cards, according to Kennedy. The Chula Vista and National City police departments, the District Attorney's Office and the Chula Vista Police Foundation also contributed funds.

All the weapons collected were to be destroyed, Kennedy said.

Saturday's buyback event was the second of its kind in recent months, according to the District Attorney's Office. Officials collected more than 350 guns during a similar event in Southeast San Diego in December hosted by the United African-American Ministerial Action Council.

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