Rocket Launchers At Buyback: Weapons Exchanged For Groceries

By iScienceTimes Staff on December 28, 2012 11:12 AM EST

Rocket Launcher
More common in a war zone than American cities, rocket launchers are military grade weapons. Two of them were turned in during an L.A. gun exchange program. (Photo: Reuters)

A gun buyback program in Los Angeles aimed at getting guns off the streets received an explosive surprise on Wednesday: two rocket launchers.  Rocket launchers at a buyback is certainly unexpected, but is exactly the kind of situation that gun buybacks look to create. In addition to the rocket launchers at the buyback, authorities also collected more than 2,000 other firearms, including 72 assault weapons. Citizens turning in weapons were allowed to do so anonymously.

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"No ID checks, we're not taking down license plates, people drive up, they have a gun in their trunk, we have one of our gun experts take that gun out, make sure it's safe, they walk over, get a gift card, and away they go," Police Commander Andrew Smith told CBS Los Angeles on Wednesday. 

Authorities check each weapon to determine if it's been stolen so they can return it to its rightful owner. Otherwise, the weapons are destroyed. Rocket launchers at a buyback sounds like a big deal, but LAPD officials told L.A. Weekly that it's not as shocking as you'd think.

"We've had them in the past," a source told the news blog. A rocket launcher was turned in during a gun exchange in May.

The buyback was a "guns for groceries" program, and anyone who turned in a weapon received a gift card to Ralph's grocery store. Handguns, rifles and shotguns were worth a $100 gift card, assault rifles $200. The rocket launchers at the buyback were also in the $200 gift card category. The buyback was scheduled for May, but L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa changed the date in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting and the murder of two firefighters by a gunman in Connecticut.

"So many young innocent children were mass-murdered in the way that they were, and now the assassination of two firefighters ... just breaks the heart of so many of us, particularly in this holiday season," Villaraigosa said at a press conference.

Although rocket launchers at a buyback will make the streets of L.A. safer, it doesn't change the fact that these military grade weapons are still readily available for purchase online. And The Daily Mail reports that a 2004 study by the National Academy of Sciences claims that gun buyback programs don't do much to curb gun violence.

"The theory underlying gun buyback programs is badly flawed and the empirical evidence demonstrates the ineffectiveness of these programs," the report reads.

So the rocket launchers at the buyback were likely old or malfunctioning, as the report concluded that the majority of the guns turned in during buyback programs either don't work or are owned by people who are unlikely to commit a crime. 

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