Hundreds of San Diego gun owners got rid of their pistols, rifles and shotguns Friday in exchange for grocery credit vouchers as part of a program designed to reduce the local inventory of firearms that might wind up in the hands of criminals.
The fifth "Guns for Gift Cards" event, hosted by the county Sheriff's Department and the United African American Ministerial Action Council, netted a total of 357 guns at a Valencia Park community center over a 4 1/2-hour period, authorities said.
All the impounded firearms were slated to be melted down or shredded, then used as scrap metal.
"If we just save one child's life, or prevent one (law) officer from being shot at with one of these weapons, this was all worthwhile," Sheriff Bill Gore said.
The program was held a day after Lemon Grove city officials announced their suport of a resolution supporting the ban of certain assault weapons and high capacity magazines. The resolution has been sent to all 51 congressional representatives in California to urge their support as well, officials said Thursday.
Those opted to give up their weapon on Friday received $50 credit for each shotgun or rifle, and $100 per pistol and assault-type firearm, redeemable at area grocery stores. Participants were required to deliver the guns unloaded and in their car trunks, from which uniformed officers took custody of them.
"I had the gun in the closet for years, don't use it," a man getting rid of a 12-gauge shotgun told News 8. "I can use the groceries more than the gun. I just got laid off. It's a good thing to get them off the street."
Another participant expressed a similar sentiment, telling the news station he thought it was "good to get some of these off the streets so the bad guys can't get them."
One woman arrived in a minivan carrying four rifles, and another participant turned in his M1 carbine, which had an illegally sawed-off barrel.
Since the exchange program began four years ago, about 1,200 firearms have been impounded, according to sheriff's officials.
Similar guns-for-groceries days are expected take place in the East County and North County over the next six months or so.
An outlay of $10,000 in asset-forfeiture funds paid for the gift cards distributed Friday, authorities said.