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County plans gun buyback
January 18, 2013, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal Staff

San Mateo County is putting its money where its mouth is.

County officials seeking to crack down on local violence and guns in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting are holding a gun buyback event next weekend at the Event Center with no questions asked but plenty of cash.

Gun owners will receive $100 per handgun, shotgun and rifle and $200 for assault weapons as classified in the state of California. The event is a joint effort of the Sheriff's Office, Supervisor Adrienne Tissier and the office of U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, who is actually providing the funding for the buyback.

Speier's office could not immediately provide how much money is available but organizers say the funds are limited and reserve the right to limit how much money any one person receives despite how many guns are surrendered.

Munks doesn't frankly expect those with weapons illegally or obtained for criminal activity to turn in guns but said the buyback will still make a dent in the number of weapons out in the public.

"People end up with stuff they don't know what to do with. Maybe their grandfather was a gun collector or they go to clean out a relative's house and find weapons in the house or garage,” Munks said. "These are guns that can be stolen in a burglary or kids can come in contact with.”

Other Bay Area cities have seen strong attendance at recent gun buybacks and Munks is hopeful the San Mateo County event will prove a similar draw.

The county last held a buyback 10 to 12 years ago at Coyote Point in conjunction with the San Francisco Giants, Munks said.

Instead of cash, though, guns were traded for tickets.

Like with that event, Munks said this upcoming buyback will be relatively simple — show up, turn over the weapon and collect the cash. No names or proof of ownership is necessary.

He doesn't anticipate weapons like rocket launchers making an appearance as they did at a Southern California buyback but range master staff and bomb technicians will be on hand.

"You never can know what will show up. We're not looking for bombs to come in but people might bring in something unstable,” he said.

The Sheriff's Office will also accept ammunition and accessories although it will not pay for them.

Once a weapon is surrendered, authorities will process them to see if they are stolen or involved in any crimes before being destroyed.

In a message circulated around the county to publicize the event, Tissier said removing even one gun from potential criminal use would make the event successful.

"One gun incident is one too many,” she wrote.

The Department of Justice lists 1,767 people in San Mateo County registered as legal owners of assault weapons with 4,053 such firearms registered in the county, Munks said.

Although California has an assault weapons ban, these are individuals and firearms grandfathered in.

Munks said it is difficult to estimate how many firearms total are floating around the county but said the figure is "way more” than those legally registered.

Munks and other county, health and school officials aren't stopping with the buyback in an effort to curb overall violence and prevent future school incidents. They are currently organizing a summit likely in early April during which they can brainstorm local solutions. Nothing is off the table, from armed security to more school resource officers, preparing standardized response plans and finding ways to identify potentially dangerous individuals before something happens, Munks said.

Israel, for example, has very strict school security and has made big strides against terrorist attacks at schools, he said.

Challenges to potential changes and evaluation include retrofitting rather than building new schools, medical privacy laws and worries about civil rights, he said.

A member of the Office of Emergency Services is working full time on organizing the summit.

"The tragedy in Connecticut and our own local violence issues, it's prompted us all to take a look at this issue,” Munks said.

Michelle Durand can be reached by email: michelle@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.

Info box: The gun buyback is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26 at the San Mateo County Event Center, 2495 S. Delaware St., San Mateo. For more information call 257-3503 ext. 9. Please transport unloaded firearms in the trunk of a vehicle.

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