ENCINITAS — People exchanged 899 firearms for gift cards — no questions asked — on Nov. 30 at MiraCosta College.
The purpose of the Guns for Gift Cards event was to safely dispose of unwanted firearms that could accidentally hurt a child or be used in a crime, according to Sheriff’s Lt. Mario Zermeno. The gathered firearms were eventually melted down, he said.
By way of comparison, the previous Guns for Gift Cards event, held this past spring in San Marcos, netted 208 guns.
“I’m not aware of another event like this in Southern California resulting in so many (firearms),” Zermeno said.
Zermeno attributed the increase in firearms collected to media coverage getting the word out in advance, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department emphasizing the safety aspect and the location’s accessibility.
Each handgun was worth a $100 Walmart gift card, with rifles and other types of firearms worth $150 Walmart gift cards. Zermeno said Walmart was not a partner in the event.
All told, the Sheriff’s department awarded more than $100,000 in gift cards, according to Zermeno. About $95,000 came from asset forfeiture funds and money seized from illegal activity. The county District Attorney’s office contributed the remaining $5,000.
The firearm total included handguns, shotguns, rifles and one hand grenade.
The Carlsbad Police Department and Oceanside Police Department also participated in the event.
Guns can always be dropped at Sheriff’s Department stations Monday through Friday during business hours. To do so, people should leave unloaded guns in the trunks of their cars and inform a receptionist. However, those who turn in a firearm to the Sheriff’s Department stations will not receive a gift card, and they must submit personal information for an evidence report.
Zermeno said he’s not sure when or where the next Guns for Gift Cards will take place.