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Gun buyback nets 289 unwanted firearms

Authorities say Dec. 10 event in Morgan Hill helps make community safer

Despite drenching rain and strong winds, people weren’t deterred when it came to dropping off unwanted guns Saturday during a gun buyback program staged by Santa Clara County law agencies and the District Attorney’s Office.

Spread out in several tents with a motor vehicle drive-thru at the Morgan Hill Outdoor Sports Center on Condit Road, scores of officers teamed up for the five-hour event to offer cash to the public for unwanted firearms.

By noon more than 250 guns had been turned over, said Morgan Hill Police Sgt. Scott Purvis.

“We’ve taken in handguns, shotguns, all kinds of rifles—including assault rifles—and ghost guns,” he said. “We’ve seen well over 100 handguns alone. Even though we have the rain, people showed up in big numbers right off.”

Authorities offered $100 each for handguns, rifles and shotguns; and $200 each for ghost guns and assault weapons, the DA’s office said. People were paid for as many as five guns.

“We had one person drop off 19 guns,” Purvis said.

Such events are held to foster a safer environment where it is more difficult for children, criminals and those with mental health concerns to access dangerous weapons, according to authorities.

The final count of firearms turned in during the Dec. 10 buyback was 289 guns, according to Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Adam Flores. That includes 277 rifles, shotguns and handguns; and 12 assault weapons. 

“That is 289 less unwanted firearms in the community that could end up in the wrong hands,” Flores said. 

Pictured are some of the unwanted firearms collected at a Dec. 10 gun buyback event in Morgan Hill. Photo: Tarmo Hannula

Authorities handed out a total of $30,100 in cash to those who gave up their unwanted weapons at the event, Flores added. In addition to the cash compensation, participants were given firearm safety kits and directed to mental and behavioral health resources at the event. 

Police asked no questions about the nature of the guns or where they came from. 

“Today I was happy to drop off an unwanted handgun,” said a Gilroy man who was not identified. “It’s my first time at this kind of event; it was quick and easy.”

Purvis said a gun handler employed by one of the agencies conducting the event initially retrieves the weapon from the vehicle’s trunk. 

“We make sure it is safe,” Purvis said, “And then we take possession of it, tag it for destruction and the citizen is handed a receipt. Then they drive up to another station to get their money—it’s that simple.”

Also lending a hand in the event was the Gilroy Police, Morgan Hill Community Law Enforcement Foundation, Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services, Santa Clara County Public Health, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, Supervisor Mike Wasserman, Supervisor Otto Lee and South County Youth Task Force.

Flores praised the “collaborative” nature of the gun buyback, thanking all the agencies that hosted and organized the event, as well as sponsors and media organizations that helped get the word out. 

“I think all those agencies and organizations working together underscores that it takes a team effort to combat gun violence,” Flores said. 

Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.

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