Clearing the guns from the streets of LA: 'It's time to change. We must get these guns off the street'

When the mayor of LA held a weapons amnesty after the massacre at Sandy Hook, people were queueing round the block

At nine o'clock on the morning after Christmas, Kwame Baker was queuing outside the Memorial Sports Arena in South Los Angeles, waiting to hand over his shotgun to the Los Angeles Police Department. "I was given it, and I never use it. I don't even know how to," said Mr Baker, a 52-year-old driver. Troubled by the recent killings in Connecticut, and by gun violence closer to home, he told The Independent: "I felt it was time. We need to get these guns off the streets."

Since the shootings at Sandy Hook on 14 December, which left 20 children and seven adults dead, people across the US have been keen to do their part to prevent another similar tragedy. Last week Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, announced that the city's gun amnesty, normally held in May, would be brought forward to Boxing Day to capitalise on the national mood.

Gun-owners were guaranteed anonymity at the drive-thru-style event, with no questions asked about the provenance of their firearms. As an incentive, those who surrendered a shotgun, handgun or rifle received supermarket vouchers worth $100 (£60); for an assault weapon, the incentive was $200. By the afternoon, the buy-back had yielded more than the 1,673 guns collected last year, and officials had handed out $130,000 in vouchers. All day, a line of cars snaked out of the stadium entrance, along Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard and around the block.

One of the first firearms surrendered was a Bushmaster AR-15, the make used by Adam Lanza in the Newtown shootings. Kenny Chan, 31, a construction estimator, brought a handgun belonging to his brother-in-law. "He had it for home defence," said Mr Chan, "but he has a five-month-old now and, in the wake of what's happened, it's not good to have guns lying around."

Tim Harper and his wife Kathy drove from Fullerton in Orange County to hand in four assault rifles belonging to Tim's stepfather, who has Alzheimer's. The weapons are illegal to own in California. "I didn't want them to end up in the wrong hands," said Mr Harper.

The LAPD has rounded up more than 8,000 firearms at similar events since the programme began in 2009. The weapons are later melted down. Sceptics suggest the guns surrendered are unlikely to be the type used for crime. But Joe Buscaino, an LA councillor and reserve police officer, said: "As a police officer, I've been to numerous crime scenes where people have been killed with assault weapons. We're saving lives here today."

The city's violent-crime rate has been falling for a decade. Since 2009, the LAPD has recorded a 39 per cent drop in gang crime, and a 22 per cent drop in calls reporting shots being fired. Speaking at the event, Mayor Villaraigosa declared his support for the federal assault weapons ban mooted by California Senator Dianne Feinstein. "Cities and states must join with the federal government to do everything we can, as quickly as we can, to keep our communities safe," he said.

Not all Americans agree, however. A Gallup poll published yesterday found a record 74 per cent now support the right to own a handgun. Even in liberal LA, the amnesty met opposition. According to the press agency AFP, a poster displayed near a second buy-back location in Van Nuys read: "Get $$ for your gun… We buy your gun to donate it to a woman in danger. An armed woman will not be a victim."

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little