A few thousand firearms have been surrendered and destroyed by local law enforcement offices throughout Santa Clara County in the last six years.
According to Johnny Gogo, deputy district attorney for Santa Clara County, countywide efforts to buy back guns gained momentum following the Dec. 2012 massacre of more than two dozen children and adults when a 20-year-old gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
“After the Sandy Hook shooting took place in December, there was more of an urgency, if you will, to try and hold a gun buyback in Santa Clara County, and I think throughout the Bay Area,” Gogo told San José Spotlight.
Gogo said the county, in partnership with the District Attorney’s Office and local law enforcement agencies, spent more than $150,000 in 2013 to buy back more than 1,100 firearms. Since 2013, about 6,000 guns have been taken off the streets in buyback events held by the county’s law enforcement agencies, Gogo said.
He added that the District Attorney’s office has contributed thousands of dollars from its asset forfeiture funds to buy back weapons.
“There’s no way that we can directly correlate a reduction in gun violence with gun buyback efforts,” Gogo said. “But I can tell you there are 6,000 more firearms that are no longer in our community.”
At these buyback events, gun owners can sign up to anonymously drop off or sell back their firearms, receiving $100 for handguns, rifles and shotguns and $200 for assault weapons. Gogo said firearms bought back at events are not resold. They’re either destroyed, returned to their owners after being reported stolen or sent to a crime lab for ballistics testing.
“The main goal is to get the firearms out of the homes,” Gogo said. “Often times we in law enforcement know that neglected or unwanted firearms can still pose a danger to residents within the home, but we also know that those who are involved in the criminal aspect of things often break into homes looking for high target items — which at the top of the list would be firearms.”
In San Jose alone, the San Jose Police Department has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in fundraised and donated monies — otherwise non-police department budget funds — in gun buybacks since 2013, according to spokeswoman Christina LaCap.
More assault weapons were received in 2016 and 2018 than years prior. Last year, LaCap said her department capped buybacks at $400 maximum because “we had these people that would bring in like 40 guns, and they would wipe out all of our funds on one person.”
“A lot of it was gun dealers who would show up,” LaCap said. “And those guns aren’t the guns we were looking for. We’ll take them, but we’re more concerned with the guns that could be in a home that could be burglarized, that are not secured in a safe, that could be stolen and then be used in some other type of crime.”
She said buyback events are meant to be “low key,” with officers on hand to answer questions and pass out suicide prevention literature and gun locks. The events, she said, are almost like “going through Starbucks.”
Ultimately though, the goal is to keep communities safe.
“Any weapons surrendered for destruction is one less weapon that could be potentially stolen in a home burglary or used in a tragic accident, suicide or crime,” LaCap said.
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