Santa Barbara’s fourth annual gun buyback (pictured), held May 12 at Earl Warren Showgrounds, drew a long line of cars waiting along Calle Real — early-morning participants waiting to exchange firearms for $100 and $200 gift cards. As expected, the event fielded plenty of older firearms that have been collecting dust for years. Ron Ungerer turned over his father-in-law’s WWII rifle. “I don’t use guns and don’t have guns otherwise,” he said. Ungerer’s story resonated with the majority of the event’s participants, while the buyback also attracts gun enthusiasts such as Bill Hordle, who drove up from Oxnard. Hordle turned in two old bolt-action rifles and one semi-automatic 22-caliber rifle. He came for the gift cards, he said. “I can’t get $100 for them [the guns] otherwise … and to make room for newer guns.” There was also a dad who was sad to part with his three firearms; but he has a 17-year-old at home who he said is dangerous.
Santa Barbara Police Sergeant Riley Harwood reported 260 firearms collected this year and $23,000 worth of gift cards distributed. The guns collected are transported to Long Beach and melted down, he said. All told, the buyback events, which are co-sponsored by the Coalition Against Gun Violence, have removed 885 firearms from community circulation.
For their own decommissioned weapons, SBPD trades in or sells to manufacturers and wholesale dealers, which often sell to the public. “It’s economically feasible and solves the problem of what to do with the inventory,” said Harwood. When asked if the department is concerned about their guns ending up in the wrong hands, Harwood said, “No more so than any other firearm being legally transferred.”
Editor’s Note: This story was revised on May 18 to reflect SBPD’s policy on out-of-service weapons.