Unwanted guns collected at West Covina’s first buyback program


WEST COVINA — Police collected an exotic arsenal of unwanted weapons Saturday during the West Covina Police Department’s first-ever gun buyback program.
From pocket pistols to a World War II-era Japanese sniper rifle, police traded $50 Target gift cards for each unwanted weapon dropped off at the police station by area residents, no questions asked.
“It’s totally anonymous and it’s up to the residents,” West Covina police Cmdr. Richard Bell said.
The event offered area residents an opportunity to safely and anonymously dispose of unwanted guns that may be collecting dust in the back of a closet, Bell explained. And if unwanted guns are disposed of, they cannot fall into the wrong hands and be used in a crime.
“In the first hour, we had 22 guns turned in,” he said.
By the end of the five-hour collection event, officers had collected a total of 44 guns — 24 handguns and 20 rifles.
Participants were advised to bring their weapons unloaded and in the trunks of their vehicles as they entered the parking lot of the police station through a designated driveway.
Within a matter of a few minutes, police checked to make sure the guns were unloaded, stowed them away, and sent the participants on their way with gift cards in-hand.
One West Covina man who did not wish to give his name during the anonymous event dropped of five .22-caliber rifles.
“I had these old rifles sitting in the garage. I figured this was a good time to get rid of them,” he said.
Weapons turned in included World War II-era M-1 rifle, an 1894 Remington shotgun and dozens of other handguns and long guns, as well as some ammunition.
If weapons of historical value are turned in, they may be given to a museum rather than destroyed, officials said.
Elizabeth Ramos, 80, of Covina brought in a .22-caliber rifle with an unusual story that she had stored for more than 30 years.
Ramos said her son found the rifle underwater while SCUBA diving off the coast of Catalina as a young man in the late 1970s. He cleaned and polished the weapon, but never fired it.
When she heard about West Covina’s gun buyback, Ramos decided it was time for the old firearm to go.
And with the gift card she received in exchange, she added she was off to get some new bedroom slippers.
Ramos said she supported the idea of the gun buyback.
“There’s too much crime right now,” she said. “We need to take care of our youth. We’re getting too many guns.”

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