Residents Exchange Guns For Gift Cards

Program Aimed At Keeping Unwanted Guns From Criminals

More than 160 guns were off San Diego streets in a matter of hours on Monday as part of an annual program aimed at keeping unwanted guns from falling into the hands of criminals.

The third annual gun-exchange program, sponsored by the United African-American Ministerial Action Council and the San Diego Police Department, took place from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday at UAAMAC headquarters on Market Street in Lincoln Park.

The event, an effort to curb gun violence, allows citizens to exchange their handguns and standard rifles for $100 gift cards, while $200 cards will be given to those who turn in assault rifles with detachable magazines, according to organizers.

Participants were required to have their firearms unloaded in their vehicles to be removed by a police officer.

El Cajon resident Tim Blake said he never used his gun before so he decided to get rid of it.

"The more guns off the street, the less serious crimes are committed," said Blake.

Robbie Douglas waited in the long line of cars to collect a $100 gift card in exchange for her gun.

"It's the easiest," said Douglas. "I had it hidden in the house. We've never used it. My husband probably doesn't even remember I have it."

Organizers collected a total of 163 guns that will soon be melted down and used for scrap metal.

However, not everyone who turned a gun received something in return.

"[It] sounded like a really good deal," said Amber Hardin, who arrived to turn in her four rifles at around 11 a.m. By the time she got there, organizers had run out of nearly $7,500 worth of gift cards, but she said she decided to turn in her rifles anyway.

San Diego Police Sgt. Kurt Grube said he thought they would have a lower turnout because of the weather, but organizers received more guns than last year.

"Two years ago, we had over 200," said Grube. "Last year, we did over 100."

The money from the gift cards comes from grants and private donations. The San Diego Police Department said there is a direct correlation between the gun exchange and the reduction in violent crime.

"Even out of 100 weapons we might receive, if we remove one that might save a life, I think we've been blessed," said Charles Dorsey of the United African American Ministerial Action Council.