Page last updated at 12:46 GMT, Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Record haul in LA gun-gifts swap

Los Angeles County police examine and process weapons  7 December
Police say the most popular vouchers were for a supermarket

A scheme run by Los Angeles police to encourage people to hand over weapons in exchange for shopping vouchers has taken in a record haul this year.

Police running the gun amnesty in Compton, in south Los Angeles county, say they collected 965 weapons, well up on the 387 guns surrendered in 2007.

Officers say the economic downturn may be behind the increase.

The scheme allows people to hand in weapons anonymously in return for gift cards worth at least $100 (67).

The Los Angeles sheriff's department began the gun-swap scheme in 2005 after a spate of gun violence in Compton, a city south of Los Angeles, in a bid to crack down on crime in the area .

Since the annual amnesty began, Compton has seen a fall in gun crime but this year's haul was a record.

Among the weapons handed in during last weekend's event were a Soviet-era semi-automatic carbine and two hand grenades, local media reported.

Food on the table

A gun could be swapped for a $100 voucher, while an assault weapon would net $200.

The most popular vouchers were for a supermarket chain, police said.

"People just don't have the money to buy the food these days," said Sergeant Byron Woods.

"One guy said he had just got laid off from his job," Sgt Woods said.

"He turned in five guns and said it would really help him to put food on the family's table."

Most of the weapons collected belonged to people who had never used them.

"We're not naive enough to think that criminals will come in and give their guns," Deputy Tim Tellez, who ran this year's amnesty, told the Los Angeles Times. But he said the scheme would help to get guns off the street.

Police will check all the weapons to see if they have been used in crimes before destroying them.

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