Monday, May 30 , 2016, 12:52 am | Overcast 58º

Officials Promote Gun Buyback Event Planned for Saturday in Santa Barbara

The Coalition Against Gun Violence will give Vons gift cards in exchange for firearms

By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper |

A local nonprofit wants to provide an incentive this weekend for residents to trade in their guns by giving them gift cards.

The Coalition Against Gun Violence will be holding a gun buyback event from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Earl Warren Showgrounds.

Guns can be turned in anonymously, and anyone who turns in a handgun, shotgun or rifle will receive a $100 Vons gift card. Anyone who turns in an assault weapon will receive a $200 gift card.

Gathering Monday on the steps of Santa Barbara City Hall, a group of local coalition advocates, politicians and law enforcement officials encouraged people to take advantage of the program this weekend.

The program has been in the works for several months, according to Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider.

"Not every city can enact legislation like Sacramento or Washington, D.C., but they can do things like gun buybacks, and I believe every little thing we can do to prevent accidental gun deaths in our community is a good thing," she said.

On Saturday, people are invited to drop off ammunition or firearms, and police will take the weapons to be destroyed, she said.

Schneider said she knows many people are still thinking about the horrific violence that unfolded in Isla Vista last month in the shooting rampage that left seven people dead.

"Some people may ask, 'What would this have done in terms of that incident?'" she said. "Frankly, the answer may be nothing. But the point is that there are different things that government agencies can do to reduce gun violence in our community, and this is one of them."

Though this is the first gun buyback the city has done, people are welcome at anytime to contact the Police Department to turn in weapons they no longer want.

Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez said the department is excited about rolling out the program.

"Gun violence in this country is horrific," he said, adding that many times guns are stolen or illegally purchased, and "we find out about them after the commission of a crime."

Santa Barbara County First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal spoke, saying his own sister had committed suicide with a gun located in his family's home.

District Attorney Joyce Dudley also spoke, as well as Ian Johnstone of the group Gun by Gun, which is leading a group of UCSB students to do their own fundraising campaign.

Toni Wellen of the Coalition Against Gun Violence said the buyback was a result of people asking for one.

"The thing that we want to stress is safety in your home," she said. "We are focusing greatly on the safety of children."

California law requires that anyone with children in their home to keep their guns unloaded and locked safely away from ammunition, Wellen said, adding that homes with family members who may be unstable, depressed or suicidal, as well as homes with elderly people suffering from dementia, should also consider relinquishing their guns as a safety precaution.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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