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Gift cards for guns

Los Angeles police officers with retrieved guns.

LOS ANGELES — Police traded gift cards for guns in Los Angeles yesterday, in a buyback programme Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced as a crime-fighting response to the deadly shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut.

Police officers handed out $200 grocery store gift cards to people who turned in an automatic weapon, and $100 gift cards to those who provided a handgun, rifle or shotgun.

Los Angeles has held an annual gun buyback since 2009, and similar events have been organised in years past in several other cities, including Detroit and Boston. Police in San Diego had a buyback earlier this month.

Some experts say the buybacks have little effect in reducing gun violence, but Villaraigosa touted the buyback programme as one step that can be taken in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14 that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adult staff members.

Los Angeles normally has its gun buyback in May, but Villaraigosa announced last week that the city would have this special buyback in response to the Newtown tragedy.

At last count, the Los Angeles gun buyback had collected 1,366 firearms, including 477 handguns and 49 assault weapons, said Vicki Curry, a spokeswoman for the mayor.

The buyback ended at 4 p.m. local time.

At each of the locations where the buyback was held, a line of cars stretched around the block, Curry said. People dropping off their guns were asked to leave them in the trunks of their cars, where officers retrieved the weapons. Those surrendering their guns were allowed to remain anonymous. (Reuters)

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