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A California police department offered gas money for unwanted guns. It ran out

The Sacramento Police Department said 134 people dropped off firearms at a gun buyback on Saturday. The department offered gas gift cards in exchange for guns, but ran out less than an hour into the event.
Steve Prezant
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The Sacramento Police Department said 134 people dropped off firearms at a gun buyback on Saturday. The department offered gas gift cards in exchange for guns, but ran out less than an hour into the event.

When the police department in Sacramento, Calif., held a gun buyback event on Saturday, they didn't just give residents a no-questions-asked chance to turn in their unwanted firearms: They also gave out gift cards for gas.

The Sacramento Police Department said on Facebook that 134 people had dropped off firearms in exchange for $50 gas gift cards. The day's collections included at least one assault weapon, components of privately manufactured "ghost guns" and "multiple other illegally configured firearms," they said.

While the gift cards appear to have been an incentive – especially with gas prices climbing across the country – officials said they weren't the only motivating factor.

"Among other reasons, community members most commonly cited a lack of experience or knowledge with firearms, lack of knowledge of the legality of the firearms, or an inability to safely store the firearms as the main reasons for participating in the exchange," they wrote.

Whatever the reason, Saturday's event – which was supposed to last for five hours – got more takers than expected. The department announced just 45 minutes into the event that it had exhausted its supply of gift cards "due to overwhelming response" and would be stopping an hour early.

It continued to accept firearms even after running out of gift cards, with officials praising the event as a success.

"I truly believe violent crime prevention is a shared responsibility and today's overwhelming community participation is evidence of the success we can achieve together," said Sacramento Police Chief Kathy Lester.

Cities across the U.S. hold gun buybacks (typically offering some sort of incentive) with the overall goal of reducing gun violence in their communities – though research suggests these programs don't quite accomplish that.

Sacramento wasn't the only city to host a fruitful buyback over the weekend. New York City officials said that people turned a total of 69 weapons in to a Brooklyn church on Saturday, at an event co-sponsored by cheesecake chain Junior's Restaurant.

People turning in rifles, shotguns and air guns got $25 bank cards, according to Forbes, while those turning in assault rifles or handguns got a $200 bank card and an iPad.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.