Thieves steal an estimated 200,000 guns across the country every year, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and many of these firearms end up in the hands of violent criminals.

Gilroy and Morgan Hill, both cities still reeling from major fatal shootings earlier this year, hope residents will turn in unwanted firearms in an attempt to reduce these numbers.

The cities’ police departments, as well as the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office, are sponsoring a gun buyback event on Dec. 14 from 9am to 2pm at the Gilroy Corporation Yard, 613 Old Gilroy St. The buyback is the first such event in the South County in 25 years, according to public safety officials.

Deputy District Attorney Vishal Bathija said Dec. 10 that improperly stored firearms at homes, many unused or unwanted, pose an easy target for thieves.

“Far too often we see those unwanted firearms in the hands of convicted felons, where they are used in robberies at local convenience stores, used in shootings or found during a routine traffic stop where officers’ lives are put in danger and the felon’s life is put in danger,” he said at a press conference.

Police and the DA’s staff at the Dec. 14 gun buyback will offer $100 for handguns, rifles and shotguns, and $200 for assault weapons. Firearms must be functional, and there is a limit of five firearms per person.

Guns collected will be checked for lost or stolen status, and if applicable, will be returned to their legal owners, authorities said. All other firearms will be destroyed.

Gun owners are asked to transport unloaded weapons in the trunk of their car. No ammunition will be accepted. Guns will be bought back on a first-come, first-served basis, as funds are limited.

At a Dec. 10 press conference promoting the event, Morgan Hill Police Capt. Emil Kokesh said the buyback is an opportunity for gun owners to dispose of their unwanted firearms in a “safe and anonymous way.”

“If we just get one gun off the street, we will have succeeded,” he said.

Gilroy Police Capt. Pedro Espinoza agreed. “The safety of our community is our top priority, and if we can prevent one tragedy, we will have succeeded,” he said.

The buyback comes less than five months after the July 28 mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival that left three victims dead and 14 wounded, and nearly six months after the June 25 shooting at Ford Store Morgan Hill that left two victims dead. Such instances have “deeply wounded” the community, Gilroy Mayor Roland Velasco said.

Morgan Hill Mayor Rich Constantine said the buyback is a way for residents to do their part in promoting public safety.

“It’s been said that buybacks really don’t solve the problem,” he said, “but this is just one tool in the arsenal to help bring safety to the streets. If we can save one life with this buyback, it is well worth it.”

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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