The San Luis Obispo Police Department hosted their first gun buyback program in the city Saturday, Oct. 1, which gave residents the opportunity to anonymously turn in unwanted guns in exchange for grocery gift cards. The city collected around 200 guns and ran out of their $12,000 worth of groceries within the first two hours.
The event, hosted at the City Corporation Yard parking lot, was originally set to run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Even after SLOPD ran out of grocery gift cards, the event remained open to explain the situation to community members who continued to arrive in hopes of receiving grocery money.
The program was marketed as a method to create “a safer community by reducing the number of firearms,” according to a city news release. Gun owners could recieve $200 for assault rifles, $100 for handguns, rifles and shotguns and $50 for an unoperational gun.
“We started looking at something we could do about the gun violence that we’ve been seeing the past few years. [A buyback program] was an idea we stole from other cities,” SLOPD Capt. Fred Mickel said. “We didn’t realize how successful it was going to be.”
The gun buyback program is not riddled with political motives, according to Mickel. Its sole purpose is to safely get rid of unused or unwanted firearms.
According to the city’s event instructions, all of the guns collected would be destroyed. SLOPD has the resources to safely destroy guns, according to Mickel. Even if a gun owner does not have malicious intent, improperly stored firearms can lead to disaster, Mickel said.
SLOPD’s biggest worry is people who do not want the guns are usually not securing them properly, which can lead to them getting into the wrong hands.
“This is not a political thing where we’re trying to take guns from people that want to be law-abiding gun owners,” Mickel said. “If they’re stolen, then they can be used as crime guns. That’s what we’re looking to curb.”
“We’re gonna look to the future and see what the best way to go, but we could possibly do another one of these events. At the same time, even if we’re not doing this, you can still come to a police department and turn in firearms,” Mickel said.
Mickel said it’s possible the department could hold another buyback event in the future, but even without it, people are still allowed to enter a San Luis Obispo Police station to turn in firearms during regular hours.