City officials announced on Thursday that the gun buyback held the day before netted 2,037 weapons, while they also warned revelers who own firearms not to shoot into the sky on New Year's Eve.
The buyback on Wednesday collected 901 handguns, 698 rifles, 363 shotguns and 75 assault weapons from people who dropped off the weapons in exchange for $100 and $200 Ralphs gift cards. The drop-off locations were set up at the Los Angeles Sports Arena and Van Nuys Masonic Temple.
The event is typically held on Mother's Day Weekend, but Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa moved the date up in the wake of the Dec. 14 shooting tragedy in Newtown, CT, that left 20 children and seven adults dead, along with the gunman.
At a news conference Thursday morning at the Los Angeles Police Department's downtown headquarters, Villaraigosa was flanked by tables covered with surrendered firearms, including rifles illegally modified or illegally brought into California from other states, said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.
"I and a lot of people who are here today understand how important it is for us to ensure that people have an opportunity to do something," he said.
The mayor also responded to critics of gun buybacks who say people mostly turn in broken firearms rather than weapons likely to be used in crimes.
"These weren't guns some say aren't functioning any longer," Villaraigosa said, "these are serious guns, semi-automatic weapons, guns that have no place on the streets of L.A. or any other city."
Ralphs and the California Wellness Foundation provided $130,000 worth of gift cards for the buyback, while City Controller Wendy Greuel garnered an additional $15,000 in private donations, the mayor said.
The response for the buyback was bigger than expected and police ran out of gift cards. Villaraigosa said 166 people gave up their weapons without accepting gift cards in return.
Gun buybacks in Los Angeles began in 2009 as an effort to reduce gun violence. Since then, more than 9,000 firearms have been surrendered and gun crimes have dropped about 33 percent, Villaraigosa said.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and other law enforcement officials came to the news conference to remind gun owners not to fire their weapons into the night sky as part of their New Year's Eve celebrations.
Newly-elected Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said someone doesn't have to be struck by a falling bullet in order for a shooter to be prosecuted for firing a gun into the air.
"Merely shooting a gun in a reckless manner that could result in a person being struck is a crime in and of itself," she said.
Discharging a firearm into the air is a felony punishable by a year in prison.
Beck said one person in the city of Los Angeles was injured by a falling bullet on last New Year's Eve, and he urged people to celebrate responsibly.
"Spend New Year's Eve with your families, spend New Year's Eve with friends," Beck said. "Don't spend it in my jail or Lee Baca's jail.
"If you fire into the air, that's my promise to you, you will get to spend the new year in the big house."