Sparked by the tragic death of a toddler accidentally shot by his 12-year-old cousin on Jan. 7, East Palo Alto Police and city leaders funded a gun buy-back program on Saturday that netted a shotgun, some small-caliber rifles and about three dozen handguns.
Residents turned in weapons from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Government Center, 2415 University Ave. and received a $150 gift packet for each gun.
Vice Mayor David Woods approached police about the buy-back day, in part because of the accidental shooting, police Capt. Carl Estelle said. The 2-year-old boy was killed on Jan. 7 when his older cousin was playing with a rifle he found stowed in the family's garage.
"It's that type of thing; where people have a gun stored away and they know they don't even want them," that police are targeting, Estelle said.
But the department has received calls from all sorts of people since the notice went out on Sept. 22, he said. "We got calls from individuals who said they are trying to get out of this lifestyle and giving up their gun seems like a good step in that direction," he said.
More than 1,000 residents received a recorded message by phone alerting them to the program by 2 p.m. and several thousand more calls went out after 6 p.m., he said.
Some residents called to ask if they would be locked up in jail if they turn in a weapon, he said.
"Just come in and turn in the guns -- no questions asked," he said.
Persons taking part in the program are asked to transport all firearms unloaded in the trunk of their vehicle and to remain in the vehicle until directed by staff. But if someone doesn't know how to unload the gun, the police department will do it for them, Estelle said.
"We just want to get all of the guns off the streets that we possibly can," he said.
The program is being sponsored by Hewlett-Packard, which is supplying the Sharks tickets and the $100 gift certificate. The city, through Vice Mayor Woods, and Police Chief Ron Davis utilized a $7,500 a state Supplemental Law Enforcement Services (SLES) grant for the cash cards, Estelle said.