SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- People lined up in San Francisco Saturday morning to rid themselves of unwanted guns in a buyback program meant to destroy weapons before they cause unintended tragedies.
"There's a long line of cars, people who walk up, people who bring handguns and assault rifles," said S.F. supervisor Matt Haney. "It's incredible how many guns there are out there and how many people actually want to get rid of them."
They began arriving at the buyback location on Howard Street in San Francisco's SoMa neighborhood at 8 a.m. -- people voluntarily giving up their weapons. For many, getting rid of guns around the house was an act of common sense to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands -- with an added incentive thrown in.
"One hundred dollars for a handgun, two hundred for an assault rifle -- no questions asked. You just drive up. You could have a trunkful. Open your trunk, they count the number out -- cash you out," said Everett Butler, a member of a group called United Playaz.
This was the 10th annual gun buyback organized by the Playaz, a group of streetwise San Franciscans who know an anti-gun violence message sometimes has more credibility when it's not coming from police or elected officials.
"I've been shot five times, did 10 years in prison for a gun and changed my life," said event coordinator Damien Posey. "And now I'm back and saying we need to do this. And they're not used to hearing people who come from that background say that so, I believe, it definitely has an added effect to it."
The buyback was completely anonymous -- no names, no questions asked. In fact, police only approached cars to remove the weapons from the trunk and secure them. Otherwise, everything was done by community volunteers. SFPD capt. Tim Falvey said buybacks not only stop guns from falling into the hands of criminals but also prevent tragedies involving children, people in domestic disputes and those suffering mental health crises.
"If they don't have that means to hurt themselves, maybe it gives them time to reach out for help and prevent themselves from harming themselves," he said. "And that's an important part of this as well."
Funding to support the yearly gun buyback is provided by the city and public donations, including some from a consortium of local cannabis dispensaries.
In all, 265 guns were surrendered and, as is the tradition, the last one was smashed to pieces by Posey using a sledgehammer. United Playaz' executive director, Rudy Valentino admitted they will never know how many lives will be changed by Saturday's buyback but he was certain it will make a difference.
"You know, there's a lot of controversy around, does it make an impact?" said Valentino. "Let me share this with you. One gun makes an impact, because that one gun can destroy one life, that can destroy this whole world."
for more features.