by Photo by Jennifer Bustamante

This morning the San Diego Sheriff's Department conducted a Gun Buy Back event at the Southbay Courthouse in Chula Vista. An important effort towards gun safety and community safety to get as many guns off the streets as possible.

Lt. Juan Marquez, who has been with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department for 24 years, said this project has proven to be successful. "The first event this year in July resulted in the collection of 296 guns in the City of Vista; the San Diego Police Department last month collected 418 guns, and today we have already collected 170 guns one hour and a half into it. We plan to run out of gift cards. I have $36,000 dollars in gift cards."  Individuals who turned in their guns received a $100 gift card for a gun, rifle or shotgun, and $200 gift card for assault weapons. "People need to get here early or there might not be any gift cards left, when that happens we direct them to another event the following month. Next month it will be in La Mesa." Lt. Marquez said.

This project promises there will be no questions asked. "So what happens is the following week after the event is over we will run every single serial number on every gun collected, and if the gun is reported lost or stolen we'll make every effort to contact the rightful owner and we will return the gun if we can make contact. If they do not want it back or we cannot contact them we will destroy the gun. We do not run any ballistics, so we do not know if these guns were involved in a crime. When they come to these events it is anonymous, we do not ask any questions. We don't care about names. Give us the gun and we will give you a card." Lt. Marquez stated.

"What we're trying to do is getting guns off the wrong hands. But another thing that can happen is if these weapons get in the hands of a kid, a kid is not going to know the difference between a real gun and a toy gun and the results can be devastating. Also, we have a lot of law abiding citizens who have these guns but they don't know how to use them and that can also be deadly." A matter of great concern for the public. He pointed that the community's response has been very positive. "Pretty much every person is thankful, they bring us donuts and want to donate money, but we cannot take money. They must contact the San Diego Police Officers Association or the Deputy Sheriff's Officers Association."

These events are funded through money that is seized, asset forfeiture money resulting from long investigations that are done from drug dealers and is collected as evidence. The goal is to put that money right back into the community. The Gun Buyback program is just one of many programs that they do with these funds, they also do crime prevention and other public safety projects through these funds.

This event is in partnership with the San Diego Sheriff's Department, the Chula Vista Police Department, the National City Police Department, Coronado Police, San Diego Harbor Police, San Diego Police Department and the District Attorney's office. "Every Southbay law enforcement agency is here. We all work together for the safety of the public." Lt. Marquez concluded.


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