Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Police Department held a gun buy back and paid people $100-$200 in gift cards as an incentive to participate. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called the buy back a way to fight crime although criminals do not participate in buy back programs. From Reuters:
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 organized 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 program 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.
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.
First off, Reuters mischaracterized the kind of weapons being bought back. Automatic weapons were not turned in, but semi-automatic weapons were. Not to mention, law abiding citizens owning firearms isn't the same thing as "having guns on the street." Second, LA taxpayers forked over more than $140,000 for this program in gift cards despite being on the verge of bankruptcy.
Los Angeles' top budget official raised the specter of bankruptcy Friday in a sweeping report that calls for new taxes, possible layoffs and the privatization of some city services.
Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said rising employee costs combined with flat-lining revenues have left the city in a precarious position. Even after reducing its workforce by 4,900 positions in recent years, the city faces a $222-million budget shortfall, he said, a figure that is expected to rise to $427 million by 2014-15.
"We're always in crisis mode," Santana said in an interview. "We're always trying to close that shortfall." Without cutting costs and coming up with about $150 million in new revenue, "we're facing the complete devastation of city services, including public safety," he said.
Maybe Mayor Villaraigosa should focus more on prioritizing law enforcement in the budget rather than holding worthless buyback programs that cost taxpayers money and have zero effect on lowering the crime rate.