MONTEREY PARK - Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Cerritos, joined with other political and law enforcement leaders Thursday to announce she has introduced legislation into Congress to fund gun buyback programs.
The Firearm Safety and Buyback Grant of 2013, also known as H.R. 793, would establish a grant program through the Department of Justice to be distributed to local law enforcement agencies for gun buyback programs, as well as anti-violence and gun safety campaigns, the congresswoman said.
She was joined at a press conference by Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, Montebello Police Chief Kevin McClure, Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Commerce and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
The funds for the proposed grant program would come from a 10 percent tax on new sales of "concealable" firearms, such as handguns, which are most commonly involved in gun violence, Sanchez said.
"My heart breaks when I see story after story of gun violence," Sanchez said.
While highly publicized incidents such as the recent school Massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, has brought national attention to the issue of gun violence, she said, "In Los Angeles County, we already know the deep wounds created by gun violence. We know it all to well."
Sanchez said that while no one law will be a panacea to address all the nation's problems with gun violence, H.R. 793 is an important step in the right direction.
"Getting guns off the streets does make communities safer," Sanchez said.
"We can't stand here and say because we don't have the perfect solution, we shouldn't try," she said.
Through the gun buyback grants, as well as the anti-violence and gun safety campaigns that would be created by the proposed legislation, the law would give local law enforcement officials additional tools to employ in their mission to protect public safety.
Sanchez added that the buyback programs are designed to give people a financial incentive to responsibly get rid of unwanted guns before they fall into the wrong hands. In buybacks, those who turn in guns are given gift cards for retailers ranging in value from $50 to $300, depending on the type of weapon surrendered.
Officials pointed recent at gun buybacks in Los Angeles County as signs that gun buybacks are useful and necessary.
Los Angeles police collected more than 2,000 firearms during a buyback event at two locations in December. Officials in Compton last month collected nearly 400 weapons at a buyback.
Sheriff Baca said the legislation would increase public safety, encourage responsible gun ownership and amounted to "common sense."
"This is a prevention program," the sheriff said.
"We're not talking about infringing on the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution," Baca said. "We believe we're not asking too much."
Over the past six years, 276 law enforcement officers have been assaulted with firearms in Los Angeles County, Baca said.
"This is unacceptable," he said. "We believe the public deserves better. We believe our risk should be reduced."
Chief McClure said he, too, was strongly in favor of the proposal.
"It's common sense, it's sensible, it's responsible. It will reduce the violence. This provides financial resources to small agencies, like myself," he said. "I encourage everyone to support this legislation.