Hundreds of guns collected at East Palo Alto buyback | March 1, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 1, 2013

Hundreds of guns collected at East Palo Alto buyback

Saturday event targeted gun owners in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park

by Rebecca Duran

It took less than three hours Saturday, Feb. 23, to collect 355 firearms at a three-city gun buyback event in East Palo Alto, the first private/public buyback of its kind on the Midpeninsula.

With a line of cars, driven by would-be gun sellers, snaking along University Avenue for hours, the buyback would have collected even more if it hadn't run out of money.

In total, gun owners brought 355 firearms to exchange for $52,000 that had been privately raised by the nonprofit Protect Our Children Bay Area. More than 200 shotguns, 100 handguns and about a dozen assault rifles were turned in, Lt. Zach Perron of the Palo Alto Police Department said during a press conference Saturday afternoon.

When the funds ran out, people who were already in the East Palo Alto City Hall parking lot ready to turn in their weapons were given IOU vouchers, and everyone else lined up was given fliers for the next buyback on March 2, he said.

About 100 individuals donated the $52,000, according to Roger Lee of Palo Alto, who founded the Menlo Park-based Protect Our Children with Palo Altan James Cook.

Elected officials, including East Palo Alto Mayor Ruben Abrica, San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe and Assemblyman Richard Gordon, D-Menlo Park, turned out to support the buyback.

Gordon called the fundraising "outstanding."

"Private funds were raised, the public sector public police department, law-enforcement agencies were here collecting the guns, overseeing the collection. So it really was a public-private partnership," he said, referring to the police departments of Menlo Park, Palo Alto and East Palo Alto.

Some officials, including Abrica, also spoke at a rally held earlier in the day in Palo Alto, organized by the group Silicon Valley Community Against Gun Violence to coincide with the buyback.

Group members held signs reading "Protect kids, not guns" and "Too many children are dying."

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, who was ambushed and shot decades ago while investigating the People's Temple cult in Jonestown, Guyana, spoke to the crowd at City Hall.

"This is our moment to make history in this country," Speier said. "It's time to put some rationality in laws that have been systematically unwoven ... by leaders of the NRA (National Rifle Association)."

Palo Alto parent Scott Best talked about his concern after the Newton, Conn., shooting and added that opposition to gun violence is not a liberal or conservative issue.

"There is no blue America; there is no red America. This is the United States of America," he said.

Activist Mindy Finkelstein, who has been working with the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence, told the story of how she was shot as a 16 year old along with several others at the North Valley Jewish Community Center by a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi.

"Our rights should not go on without regulation," she said. "(Dianne) Feinstein's regulation won't pass without our support."

Ian Johnstone, whose father died from a blood clot after being shot, talked about opposition from the gun industry and emphasized his belief in the importance of advocating in Washington, D.C., and mounting larger buyback programs.

"That's very exciting," he said about the money for East Palo Alto's event running out. "There needs to be more money; there need to be more events. There's a lot of work and a lot of energy and attention being focused right now on what's happening in D.C. We still have a mess we need to clean up, a lot of hazardous weapons around."

Bonnie Bernstein, a member of Silicon Valley Community Against Gun Violence and a therapist who specializes in trauma, wanted people to see the effects of gun violence on families and communities.

"We are hoping to keep on pressuring politicians to get a vote for Obama," she said.

Palo Alto resident Alex Beretta found out about the rally online and stopped by after it finished.

"I'm really anti-gun," he said. "It's good to see this happen and to see interest. Hopefully, it'll last."

Cook, who is a parent of elementary-school-aged children, said he was pleased with how both the buyback and rally turned out and hopes to host more events soon.

"I guess the only thing I'm sad about is that we didn't raise even more money," he said. "Now we have to do something else. It's great to have both things happening. We want to be able to have the gun buyback and have it run safely and quietly. But at the same time we want to raise awareness."

On Friday night, another group, Organizing for Action, held a candlelight vigil in Lytton Plaza in downtown Palo Alto as part of a national "Day of Action to End Gun Violence."

During that event, group members chanted and left a voicemail for U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner.

Editorial Intern Rebecca Duran can be emailed at


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