The Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department is one of many law enforcement agencies across the country that have a program allowing gun owners to turn over their weapons with no questions asked. A similar program in New York gives cash in exchange for firearms. The L.A. program uses gift cards.
No matter the exchange, the goal is the same: to keep extra firearms off the streets and to keep the community safer. The L.A Sherriff’s Department prefers to exchange $200 Wal-Mart gift cards for the surrendered weapons and the people are agreeable to this.
According to this report from the LA Times, the most recent exchange in the Hawaiian Gardens community brought in nearly 350 weapons. This cache included several assault weapons and even a Mac 10 machine gun. This highly successful exchange had nothing at the similar one in Compton last year that brought in over 1,000 weapons in four days.
At first glance programs like these seem to be a great solution. Critics question their motivation however. After all, people who use illegal weapons won’t likely use this type of program, and if they do, finding a replacement firearm is not that tough of a job. The firearms brought to these exchanges wouldn’t likely be used in the commission of a crime anyways, in other words.
Having said that, for people who have a weapon in their home that is not in use, the Sherriff’s Department provides a great method of disposal. This could prevent accidents around the house and also keep children from finding and toying with the neglected firearms.
The most common firearms offense in California is possession of a firearm without a permit. This misdemeanor charge can carry up to 1 year in jail. Not all weapons charges are misdemeanors, however, and many carry potentially lengthy sentences with the California Penal System.