Gun Buyback Returns to Santa Barbara as Gun Crime Increases

Coalition Offers Rewards for Anonymous Gun Surrenders

A coalition of activists and law enforcement will sponsor a gun buyback on August 21 at Earl Warren Showgrounds to reduce the amount of gun violence. | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

The year 2020 was the deadliest for gun violence in two decades. In 2020, handgun sales in California increased 65.5 percent while the state’s homicide rate jumped 31 percent. Gun violence has continued into 2021, and the number of shootings that have killed or injured at least one person this year surpass those of the first five months of 2020.

On Saturday, August 21, The Coalition Against Gun Violence (CAGV), the City of Santa Barbara, and the Santa Barbara Police Department will host the Anonymous Gun Buyback at Earl Warren Showgrounds. Those who surrender handguns or rifles will receive a $100 Smart & Final gift card per firearm, and those who surrender assault weapons will receive a $200 gift card per weapon. This is the sixth anonymous gun buyback the group has hosted in an attempt to make Santa Barbara safer.

“What we’re trying to do is get guns off the streets and out of homes where they could cause gun deaths,” said CAGV Chair Emeritus Toni Wellen. In particular, Wellen emphasized the major problem of gun-related suicides, which account for 60 percent of gun deaths.

A gun in a home is 22 times more likely to be used in the home through a suicide, homicide, or accidental death. Although this statistic has not changed, according to Wellen there are more people across the country who are depressed and anxious due to COVID-19.

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“We advise people that if you have a person in your home who is emotionally disturbed, anxious, depressed, and there is a gun in the home, the gun buyback is a good way remove that weapon” said Wellen.

The coalition has collected and destroyed a total of 1,169 firearms and 12 assault weapons since its first buyback. Wellen said, “We’re the only country that has gun violence like this. We have more guns than we have people.”

From 2019 through 2020, there were 334 gun crimes filed by the District Attorney in Santa Barbara County. These numbers have steadily increased over the past three years. In March 2021, Santa Barbara saw its third gang-related killing of the year that involved a gun.

In assuring the anonymity of those turning in guns, organizers aim to help at-risk gun owners, such as felons, turn over with weapons no questions asked. While the Santa Barbara Police Department does check the surrendered firearms’ serial numbers, all of the guns, even those used in crimes, are destroyed.

Although buyback programs are not proven to directly reduce violent crime, research suggests buybacks can influence public perception of how authorities are addressing gun violence, and they serve as opportunities to educate communities about gun violence reduction strategies.

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