The Coalition Against Gun Violence and its partners did their part to remove firearms from Santa Barbara households on Saturday morning, collecting 238 weapons during the Sixth Annual Anonymous Gun Buyback. Five assault weapons were among the firearms exchanged for Smart & Final gift cards. In the six years of the volunteer program, 1,407 weapons have been relinquished.
Removing weapons from households has been among the goals for the coalition since it formed in 1994, emphasizing that not only are guns used in homicides but also that accidental discharges cause serious injuries. Gun deaths also include suicide. According to the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program, 60 percent of gun deaths in 2019 were death by firearm suicide.
Guns accounted for 37 percent of total deaths in the U.S. that year, but researchers see the trend increasing during the pandemic. In a preprint article, the Davis program estimated 2.1 million more gun purchases were made in March-May 2020, based on the FBI Criminal Background Check System used when legal gun purchases are made. That’s 64.3 percent more than the expected volume. At the same time, a statistical increase in firearm violence was recorded — an additional 776 fatal and nonfatal injuries in the U.S. over the number expected had there been no increase in purchases.
In their analysis, the UC Davis researchers surmised that stay-at-home orders may reduce community violence, since fewer people were out, or increase it because fewer witnesses were on the scene. As well, the pandemic added stressors like finances, worry, and a sense of hopelessness, which can lead to violence.
In Santa Barbara, the gun buyback depends on anonymity for the people who give up their firearms, said Catherine Swysen, event chair for the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee, which partnered with the coalition, S.B. Police Department, Democratic Women of Santa Barbara County, City of Santa Barbara, and others to put on the event. “Anonymity is the cornerstone of the entire program,” she said. “No questions are asked. The Police Department does not care who is turning in the weapon. What’s important is to get firearms off the street.” Participants received $100 for every handgun and long gun turned in, and $200 for an assault weapon. SBPD sees that the guns are destroyed after being turned in.
“It’s a very positive event,” Swysen added. Some people don’t know how to get rid of a weapon and were appreciative that this was a way to do it safely. Above all, she said, “Working together as a community with the Police Department at this event makes the community safer.”