Organizers of the Mission’s first gun buyback held Thursday evening in the parking lot of the U.S. Bank at 22nd and Capp streets, were pleasantly surprised by a turnout that netted 157 guns, including four assault weapons.
“It’s been incredible,” said District 9 Supervisor Campos, who attended the event and watched people on foot and in cars lined up for two blocks surrender hand guns, shotguns and rifles. “Just incredible. Those are weapons that aren’t being used against innocent people out there.”
Participants were offered an optional, anonymous survey that included questions such as, “What is the primary reason you sold your gun today,” and, “After selling your gun(s) today, is your home gun-free?”
Dan Rastrullo’s home in San Mateo was close to being gun-free. He stood in line outside of the parking lot, leaning on a tall box that contained a sniper rifle. Rastrullo said he hadn’t touched the gun since his wife gave it to him as a gift 20 years ago. “The plan was to begin hunting, but that never materialized,” he said.
Alan Best, who pulled up in a small blue truck with his brother, was at the event for a similar reason. “I don’t need it. Not shootin’ it,” he said of the rifle that was removed from under the passenger seat by an officer. “It’s a piece of junk.”
Best, a retired truck driver who said he was given the gun six years ago by his boss, didn’t want it “shooting little animals anymore.”
“We need the money in the house more,” he said. “It’s not making the streets safer. It’s just a hundred dollars in my pocket.”
Campos and Mayor Ed Lee partnered with the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), a Mission-based organization that works with at-risk youth, and GunbyGun, a community-funded gun buyback program, to offer people $100 for handguns and rifles and $200 for assault weapons.
Eric King, co-founder of GunbyGun, said the total amount paid to people for their guns was $15,000, $8,600 of which came from the GunbyGun crowdsourcing campaign. The rest Campos supplied from his discretionary funds.
The large turnout, which drew people of all ages and ethnicities, kept the buyback open beyond the 8 p.m. end time. The San Francisco Police Department and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) also supported the effort.
“As for the motivation, we don’t care if it’s for the money or the safety,” said SFPD Deputy Chief Lyn Tomioka, noting that up to five guns were being accepted from each person. “It’s guns off the street.”
Tomioka said that the event was meant to cater to people who arrived in cars with unloaded guns in their trunks, but word got out and gun owners showed up on foot carrying their guns, which slowed the process down. “The drive-ups are safer and much more legal,” she said. “But I’m not complaining. We’re going to process as many as we can.”
“We weren’t expecting walk-ins, but we’ll work with you,” said CARECEN Executive Director Lariza Dugan-Cuadra to the people lined up along the fence outside the U.S. Bank parking lot. “We’re conscious that you’re here, and we appreciate it.”
Dugan-Cuadra said that youth in the community were paid to do street outreach for the event, placing posters around the neighborhood and talking to people about the benefits of surrendering their weapons. The protocol for the gun buyback included cars and walk-ins being allowed into the parking lot one-by-one, where police officers received the guns, carried them to a table where gun type was recorded, receipts were written and guns were placed in boxes that were then stacked in the back of an SFPD van.
“Two handguns, one shotgun,” an officer who removed three guns from a car announced to Officer Smith, who recorded the details. The guns would be driven to the property room of the main SFPD station, where each and every one would be investigated and information about them recorded.
“After a while, they all get destroyed, which is kind of nice,” said an officer who was placing them in the back of the van.
Dugan-Cuadra was prepared to receive guns such as the duck hunter gift ideas here that ranged from those being used for hunting to those being used for other things. But because the buyback was a “no questions asked” event, she did not pry for information. The guns might not have even belonged to the people turning them in, and the bottom line was that people were ready to give up guns.
“These weapons have gotten buried somewhere in the depths of whatever our homes are,” she said, adding that after the event, she hopes the buyback will become a viable approach to gun-free communities.
“I’m just very proud of how we did this,” said Campos, who agreed with Dugan-Cuadra that the team effort worked well.
“People are often very willing to give up their guns through a safe, anonymous event like this,” said King, who hoped that the process of recovering “scores of guns” demonstrated the immediate results of tackling gun violence. “We want people to be excited about this,” he said. “We want them to feel empowered.”