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Several participants of an annual "Guns-For-Gift Cards" exchange said the recent tragedy in Connecticut prompted them to turn in firearms.
Among the guns returned Friday were an automatic Uzi and various other caliber handguns and rifles – no questions asked. Some of the weapons were illegal in the state of California.
The United African American Ministerial Action Council (UAAMAC) has been hosting the gun buy-back program for five years in Southeast San Diego.
This year, the violence that occurred one week earlier was on many minds at the event.
Dennis O’Brien said the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting prompted him to exchange the gun he never uses for a gift card.
“If you’re not using it, then why have it?” he said.
He said he intends to send the money to help the community of Newtown.
Elona Taylor waited in line to turn in guns she had inherited over the years.
“It makes it even more heart-wrenching after hearing what happened back in Connecticut,” Taylor said. “It’s time just to get ‘em out of here.”
Since its inception, the program has removed 700 guns off the streets according to San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.
“It takes on a special significance of course with what happened in Connecticut,” Dumanis said. “We mourn with those in Connecticut, those innocent victims.”
She said tragedy like what happened on Dec. 14 usually sparks action.
“We’ve had enough," Dumanis said. "We join the president and everybody else who say ‘It’s time to stop the gun violence and to do something.'"
Roy Tyler of Emery Hills missed his walk to wait in line for his daughter. “Everybody should be out here getting rid of them, getting rid of these guns,” he said.
The District Attorney's Office donated $5,000 in asset forfeiture funds to this year's program.
Gun owners exchanged weapons for gift cards - $50 credit for shotguns and rifles, $100 for pistols and assault weapons. San Diego police officers handled and cataloged the weapons.
They will also destroy those weapons turned in, organizers said.
In the end, gun owners in San Diego traded more than 350 weapons for gift cards and vouchers Friday.