Residents swap guns for gift cards and skateboards at local church

SAN DIEGO -- There are fewer guns on the streets of San Diego after hundreds of weapons were handed over to law enforcement in exchange for gift cards in a no-questions-asked event Saturday.

During the four-hour session at Encanto Southern Baptist Church, 6020 Akins Ave., participants received $100 vouchers for rifles, shotguns and handguns, $200 worth of shopping credit for assault weapons, or custom skateboards if preferred.

It was a busy day: Cars lined up all along Akins Avenue as gun owners waited their turn to hand over unused firearms.

The event was started in honor of two local teens who were gunned down near the Encanto Southern Baptist Church 11 years ago and has continued each year in an effort to remove firearms from the streets and keep them out of the hands of children and criminals.

“Deputies and San Diego Police officers are here taking some guns off the street. We’re using money we’ve gotten from drug asset forfeiture and we’re handing out gift cards and skateboards when people turn in their guns so they can be destroyed," San Diego Undersheriff Michael Barnett told FOX 5. “The deputies and the officers are very busy getting these guns, making them safe, turning them in and giving out the gift cards.”

All surrendered firearms must be operational but unloaded, and there was a limit of two transactions per vehicle, according to organizers. Ammunition, explosives and inert ordnance devices was prohibited.

The event was jointly sponsored and coordinated by the Unified African American Ministerial Action Council, the San Diego Police Department, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office and the San Diego Training Center.

In just the past ten years, the event has collected nearly three thousand guns, assault weapons, and ammunition. The buyback has become so popular, organizers say last year they ran out of gift cards.

"We have $30 thousand in gift cards this year," said San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit. “It’s just a phenomenal collaboration among groups, among law enforcement, among clergy to really make our community safer and to turn in unwanted guns so these guns don’t get into the hands of the wrong folks.”