MARTINEZ -- Contra Costa County will give residents a chance to turn in unwanted firearms by holding its first gun buyback program this summer, District Attorney Mark Peterson said Thursday.

The program, sponsored by the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office, will take place through the month of August at sites to be announced, and will be open to all county residents, with no questions asked, Peterson said.

The approach allows citizens to turn in guns anonymously for payment, in order to reduce the number of weapons on the street and remove them from the hands of persons not be trained to use them.

"Recent events like the school shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, have increased awareness in our nation about the prevalence of guns in our society," Peterson said. "Contra Costa County is no stranger to gun violence, as we have seen many gun-related deaths, especially among our youth."

Participants will be paid for their operable firearms with gift cards to a retailer of their choice, up to $50 for a rifle or shotgun, $100 for a handgun, and $200 for an assault weapon, Peterson said.

Using gift cards will not only stretch the program's resources by taking advantage of discounts offered by retailers on bulk purchases of the cards, but Peterson said this process helps ensure that people bring in their guns for the right reasons.

"We don't want people going out and looking for guns to steal and bring in for cash, and we don't want people possibly using this cash to go out and buy drugs," Peterson said. "We basically want to encourage more legitimate users of the program."

The county is hoping to mimic the success other local counties and cities have had with their own buyback programs, Peterson said. The city of Pittsburg collected 291 firearms in March, and other programs in Marin and Santa Clara counties collected 856 and 1,116 guns respectively.

While counties like Marin bought back residents' firearms in cash, Peterson said nearby Solano County saw the same positive results using the gift card system, and that he does not see the method of payment as a deterrent to potential participants.

Citizens are asked to bring their firearms unloaded and in the trunk of their vehicle to the events, and may remain anonymous throughout the process. Police will not generate any reports during the event, nor will they run any person for warrants, Peterson said.

All serial numbers on the guns will be checked to confirm the firearm is not stolen, Peterson said. Any stolen guns collected will be returned to their rightful owner, and all other firearms collected will be destroyed.

Police departments in Richmond, Antioch, Brentwood, San Ramon, Concord and Martinez have signed up for the program, Peterson said, and Chevron, Tesoro, Phillips 66 and Shell have already committed a total of $40,000 to fund it. The estimated cost of the program is about $150,000 and the District Attorney's Office will continue seeking cash donations for the program.

Follow Erin Ivie at Twitter.com/erin_ivie.