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Thousands line up in LA to swap guns for grocery store gift cards in buyback

Police traded grocery store gift cards for more than 1,300 guns in Los Angeles on Wednesday as part of an annual buyback program which Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa brought forward this year in response to the deadly shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut.

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One of two pro-gun activists protests against the Gun Buyback Program organized in the traditionally liberal Los Angeles during the LAPD Gun Buyback Program event in the Van Nuys area of north Los Angeles on December 26, 2012. (JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Police traded grocery store gift cards for more than 1,300 guns in Los Angeles on Wednesday as part of an annual buyback program brought forward this year in response to the deadly shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut.

According to Reuters, officers from the LAPD handed out $200 grocery store gift cards to people who turned in — no questions asked — an automatic weapon, and $100 gift cards to those who turned in a handgun, rifle or shotgun.

At last count, officials in LA had collected 1,366 firearms, including 477 handguns and 49 assault weapons, Vicki Curry, a spokeswoman for the mayor, told Reuters.

The LA Times reported long lines of cars had formed as people turned in weapons at Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena and the Van Nuys Masonic Temple.

The paper reported seeing two men in a pickup truck with two children in the backseat handing over a rifle, pistol and a MAC-12 altered with a silencer.

Many others brought multiple weapons, including a white Honda with 22 pistols in the trunk, which earned the driver $1,000.

Los Angeles has held an annual gun buyback since 2009, but the event is usually held in May.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa decided to bring it forward in the wake of the Dec. 14 shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Several other cities, including Detroit and Boston, have held similar events in recent years, while police in San Diego had a buyback earlier this month, Reuters wrote.

The Associated Press said last year's buyback netted about 1,700 guns.

The AP quoted Villaraigosa as saying:

"All of us are still mourning the tragedy at Newtown, Conn. So many young innocent children were mass-murdered in the way that they were, and now the assassination of two firefighters ... just breaks the heart of so many of us, particularly in this holiday season."

More from GlobalPost: Newspaper publishes gun permit owners names after Sandy Hook (VIDEO)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/121226/la-gun-buyback-police-gift-cards-los-angeles-sandy-hook-massacre-newtown