“This is exactly the kind of gun we’re trying to get off the streets,” said Capt. Shawn Ahearn of the Sunnyvale Dept. of Public Safety (DPS). Capt. Ahearn points to what appears to be a civilian version of a MAC-10, a semi-automatic pistol banned by the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban.
Capt. Ahearn is the lead for the North County’s first ever gun buyback event. Last Saturday’s event was a major inter-agency undertaking including Sunnyvale DPS and police departments from Santa Clara, Los Altos, Mountain View and Palo Alto. All of the agencies, as well as the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, put forward money and pulled 453 guns off the streets, keeping them out of the hands of potential criminals.
“There are a lot of guns that are unsafe,” said Santa Clara Police Chief Mike Sellers. “They’ve been placed in people’s closets, in dresser drawers. We’ve seen an increase in residential burglaries and we don’t want people to get a hold of these guns.”
In total, approximately $44,000 was used to fund the gun buyback event. The Santa Clara Police Department put up $5,000. The money was allocated from the Chief’s operating budget. Many people said they had been waiting for an event like this.
“They were my dad’s and he passed away four years ago,” said Linda of Mountain View, who turned in some rifles and a handgun. “I’ve been waiting for something like this to get rid of them. This is so convenient.”
Linda says she’s seen other gun buyback events in areas like Oakland, but she didn’t want to drive up to the East Bay to dispose of her father’s guns.
Once they are turned in, the guns will be transported and examined by a private agency that works directly with federal agencies on events like this one. The guns will be run through a number of federal and state agencies to make sure they were not used in a crime or stolen. If they were reported stolen, an attempt will be made to return the gun to its rightful owner.
The other guns will be destroyed.
“They’re being completely destroyed,” said Capt. Ahearn. “Every part of the weapon is going be destroyed. Whatever components there are, the guns will be taken apart so the guns can be melted down or destroyed.”
Once destroyed, the parts will be distributed. Much of the material will be sent to a smelting operation in Oakland for further destruction. Some of the plastic parts will be sent to a Bay Area foundation that creates artwork for youth diversion programs. Other parts will go on display at local police agencies so the public can see exactly what happens when the guns are destroyed. Ultimately, all of the material gets recycled in an environmentally friendly way.