Phoenix mayor: Gun buyback largest in state history - CBS46 News

Phoenix mayor: Gun buyback largest in state history

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Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (Source: CBS 5 News) Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -

The mayor of Phoenix is calling Groceries for Guns the largest buyback program in state history.

In fact, Greg Stanton said nearly 2,000 guns are now off the street and unable to fall into the hands of criminals.

"About eight years ago, when I found out I was going to be a dad, I put it in my friend's gun safe," said a man named Rob who handed his shotgun over to Phoenix police Saturday. "And eight years later,  I decided this was smartest thing I could do with it."

He's one of hundreds of people who, during the past three weekends, have traded their guns for Basha's gift cards.

People who exchanged unloaded handguns, shotguns or rifles received a $100 gift card per gun.

Those who turned in assault weapons got a $200 gift card per gun.

"Once again, this community has stepped up to the plate and showed a positive response to this Phoenix gun buyback," said Stanton.

The Phoenix Police Department and Arizonans for Gun Safety teamed up for May's Groceries for Guns buyback thanks to an initial $100,000 anonymous donation.

During the first two weekends, officers collected 979 guns and ran out of gift cards.

A second anonymous $100,000 donation allowed Saturday's final buyback, which took in another 945 guns – almost as many as the first two weekends combined.

"This is another tool in the toolbox for law enforcement that we believe very strongly will make the city of Phoenix the safest major city in the United States," said Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia.

But, it could be the last buyback of its kind in Arizona.

In late April, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill into law banning police from destroying guns they collect during buybacks.

That doesn't sit well with Stanton, who said politicizing law enforcement is bad public policy.

"You don't want politicians telling law enforcement how to engage in public safety activity," he said. "Let law enforcement, based upon their professional experience, make those decisions."

The mayor has plenty of support on the issue.

"They (police) should be able to take care of the guns themselves and do with them as they want," said Casimir Koziara, who turned a gun in for his sister-in-law. "And destroy them, basically."

Koziara, who's a gun owner himself, said he supports buyback programs that prevent firearms from falling into the wrong hands.

"It's sort of a two-edged sword," he said. "You like them (guns) and you want to keep them. But, for some people, this is a great deal."

As there have been during the past two weekends, private buyers tried to persuade those trading their guns for groceries Saturday to sell them for cash instead.

"The problem I have with these guys out here is they don't seem to understand, for me, this seems like the right thing to do," said Rob. "And, they just don't get it."

Police will now process all of the collected guns.

Those found to be stolen will be returned to their owners.

Guns that have not been used in crimes and don't need to be held as evidence will be destroyed.

Police hope to complete the task before the new law takes effect this summer.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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