LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck shows Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villiaraigosa a rocket launcher which was recovered over the weekend in the annual gun buy
LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck shows Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villiaraigosa a rocket launcher which was recovered over the weekend in the annual gun buy back. (David Crane / Staff Photographer)

Calling it a small dent in the city's war on gun violence, Los Angeles officials announced Monday that they collected 1,673 firearms in the fourth annual gun buyback over the weekend.

The city had $200,000 in vouchers that Ralphs grocery stores donated for this year's program, in which 791 handguns - including a matching pair of pistols valued at $2,000 - 527 rifles, 302 shotguns and 53 assault weapons were turned in to the Los Angeles Police Department.

"What are assault weapons like these doing on the streets of Los Angeles? I think the answer will be, `nothing productive,"' Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said at a news conference where he displayed the weapons.

"You're not hunting ducks with this stuff.

LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck looks over guns recovered over the weekend in the annual gun buy back.  Residents are given grocery store coupons for
LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck looks over guns recovered over the weekend in the annual gun buy back. Residents are given grocery store coupons for turning in their weapons with no questions asked. Over 1,000 guns were recovered, 53 of them were assault weapons. The guns are all destroyed by the LAPD. (David Crane / Staff Photographer)
Too often, these weapons are used to hunt and shoot down people."

The gun buyback, criticized by some as bringing in only weapons of little value, is one tool the city uses to reduce crime, the mayor and police chief said.

"Every day, the chief, his command staff and I get the same message on our BlackBerries," Villaraigosa said.

"It reads young male Hispanic or young male black, 22, 13, 26, or 27 is dead. Shot to death, often by another young male. We have to do something to stop this continuous cycle of violence."

Police Chief Charlie Beck said the weapons turned in are often no longer wanted in a person's house and, too often, end up in the accidental death of someone or in a suicide.

Pointing to the guns laid out before him, Beck said he recognizes they were only a small portion of the weapons out in the community.

"You have to figure there are 3 million weapons out there," Beck said. "We are doing all we can to reduce that with programs like this."

The guns are checked to see if they are registered and if they are stolen. Most, however, will end up being shredded and the scrap metal turned over to artists.

This year, artist Victor Hugo made a sculpture in honor of a friend who died from gun violence.

"Working with the LAPD, this sculpture is a portrait of a friend of mine," Hugo said. "I dedicate this to all the families who have dealt with gun violence.

"This was an important message of transformation of turning something ugly into a thing of beauty.

rick.orlov@dailynews.com

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