Californians honor Newtown victims by selling their guns

(CBS News) LOS ANGELES - The tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut touched so many people across the country. On Wednesday, Los Angeles responded by holding its gun buyback program months earlier than usual. So many people came out that two sprawling sites, including a sports arena, were needed for the number of people getting rid of their weapons.

Angela Atkins came to the Los Angeles gun buyback with two hunting rifles and thoughts of the children who died in Newtown, Connecticut.

"It was emotional," she said. "I cried. And I just felt like those were everybody's children."

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Asked if she is getting rid of her only guns, Atkins said: "Yeah. I couldn't send them a sympathy card or anything, so I just said, 'Well, that's the best thing I can do.'"

It was because of Newtown that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa moved up the annual gun buyback usually held on Mothers' Day. The city offers gift certificates up to $200 dollars depending on the kind of gun.

As for whether the NRA might say Villaraigosa is taking guns out of the hands of the good guys, the mayor said: "Well, the NRA says a lot of things that doesn't pass the smell test for most of us. They said that what we need are more good guys with guns. Well, there are a lot of good guys with guns. We have more good guys with guns than any place in the world, and we also have more gun violence."

But a 2004 report by the National Academy of Science found that guns likely to be used in crimes were unlikely to be turned in at gun buybacks. Villaraigosa notes that since 2009, Los Angeles has collected 8,000 guns at buybacks, a period in which violent crime in the city has dropped by 33 percent.

"This is part of a much bigger effort," said Villaraigosa, "a comprehensive effort to address gun and gang violence. And like I said, in the city of L.A. the proof is in the pudding."

The line of cars stretched for six blocks as people waited up to three hours to turn in their guns.

"Me turning my rifles in now is my sympathy card to Connecticut," said Atkins.

So many people are bringing their guns in that LAPD officials say this is likely to be their most successful buyback ever. They expect to collect more than 2,500 guns before it's over.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.