Gun owners turn in weapons in exchange for gifts

Weapons taken with 'no questions asked'

SAN DIEGO - Hundreds of San Diego gun owners got rid of their pistols, rifles and shotguns Friday in exchange for grocery credit vouchers as part of a program designed to reduce the local inventory of firearms that might wind up in the hands of criminals.

The fifth "Guns for Gift Cards" event, hosted by the county Sheriff's Department and the United African American Ministerial Action Council, netted a total of 357 guns at a Valencia Park community center over a 4 1/2-hour period, authorities said.

All the impounded firearms were slated to be melted down or shredded, then used as scrap metal.

"If we just save one child's life, or prevent one (law) officer from being shot at with one of these weapons, this was all worthwhile," Sheriff Bill Gore said.

Those opting to no longer bear arms received $50 credit for each shotgun or rifle, and $100 per pistol and assault-type firearm, redeemable at area grocery stores. Participants were required to deliver the guns unloaded and in their car trunks, from which uniformed officers took custody of them.

James Retta, one of the first in line, said, "It's always been on my mind that it might get into the wrong hands."

Rhetta told 10News he was mainly worried about the hands of his six grandchildren.

"They mean a lot to me all my life," said Rhetta, who dreads the thought of another tragedy like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary happening.

James Pfeiffer was about 20 cars behind him.

"[My gun] is kind of illegal, so I want to get rid of it," Pfeiffer said.

He told 10News he found it while going through a Dumpster and wanted it out of his hands without getting in trouble with the law.

One woman arrived in a minivan carrying four rifles, and another participant turned in his M1 carbine, which had an illegally sawed-off barrel.

Since the exchange program began four years ago, about 1,200 firearms have been impounded, according to sheriff's officials.

Similar guns-for-groceries days are expected take place in the East County and North County over the next six months or so.

An outlay of $10,000 in asset-forfeiture funds paid for the gift cards distributed Friday, authorities said.

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