San Diego Police collected more than 400 firearms Saturday during a "no questions asked" gift card exchange event in Kearny Mesa in an effort to get more guns off the streets.
Residents lined up in their cars outside Police Plaza to surrender working firearms for a $100 or $200 Target Stores gift card, depending on the type of firearm. All weapons surrendered will be destroyed.
“I expected a line, but it moved really quickly. I had my Kindle so I was reading while I was waiting,” said Marcia Hoston-Barra, a San Diego resident.
Guns in San Diego
Hoston-Barra had several guns that belonged to her late husband. Turning them into police was a bit of a relief.
“They were my husband’s. He had a stroke and he hadn’t used them in years. Better to just get rid of them,” she said.
The exchange comes as officers across the county deal with a rise in gun crimes.
“It's perhaps a gun we’re not going to encounter," said San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit. "The number of guns we’re seizing from the community right now: Over 1,600 firearms, over 355 ghost guns now. The number of firearms from prohibited persons is alarming right now."
“Our shootings are up 63 percent right now," Chief Nisleit added. "Our homicides are up. Gang homicides are up over 100 percent. We are seeing a lot of gun violence right now."
Police say one of the dangers of owning a gun is it could get stolen. Investigators say criminals often break into people's cars and homes to get their weapons.
“Every weapon is capable of doing damage,” said Gerald Johnson, Chairman of the United African American Ministerial Action Council.
Johnson is encouraged by the turnout. He understands more needs to be done to fight gun violence.
“Let’s refocus this energy and get to the root of this violence and then start to work towards the root of the issue,” said Johnson.
“I think it’s a little bit of everything. I think pandemic plays a role, the courts being closed, schools, people out of work, it all plays a role,” said Nisleit.
The San Diego Police Department, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, San Diego Gas and Electric, and AT&T each contributed financially to this effort.
The San Diego Sheriff’s Department will be hosting another guns for gift cards event on Oct. 9.