On Saturday, the city of Los Angeles and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa were trading Visa and Ralph's supermarket chain gift cards for hand guns and Uzi submachine guns, with Villaraigosa declaring that the gun buyback program was making L.A. a “safer city.”

“I want to thank the L.A. residents who joined us today in securing a safer city for every family by turning in their guns and helping us get dangerous weapons off the streets,'' Villaraigosa said, according to City News Service. “No legislation can replace the unified voice heard today of a community saying no to guns, gangs and indiscriminate violence in our neighborhoods.''

According to CNS, the Mayor's Office, which receives its crime statistics from the LAPD, touted the supposed success of the buyback program by noting that, in 2008, nearly 1,500 city residents were gunshot victims and 1,698 guns were collected on Saturday. Villaraigosa and his handlers appeared to be making some kind of connection, suggesting the streets will now be “safer.” But since the city hasn't done a gun buyback for over 10 years, and there's no recent data to conclusively show the program decreases gun crime, the link most definitely has its flaws.

In addition to the weak connection, the Mayor's Office and the LAPD appeared to leave out other relevant information in their public relations blast over the weekend, which will continue this morning at a press conference at LAPD headquarters in downtown.

Villaraigosa and the police, for example, did not give any feel for the kind of people who turned over their weapons on Saturday. Did, say, hard core gang bangers

cash in their guns? After all, the buyback program is a

much-publicized “component” of the mayor's 2009 Gang Plan.

The Mayor's Office also did not report on Saturday whether or not the 1,698

guns came from high crime areas. Out of the 20 drop-off spots across

the city, eight were located in the San Fernando Valley, four in

Central L.A., four in West L.A., and four in South L.A.  According to

the Daily News,

792 weapons, or nearly half of the haul, were dropped off in the

Valley–not  exactly the worst place in the city for violent crime.

In the San Fernando Valley, in fact, the Daily News

reported that drop-off locations had run out of gift cards. City

officials tried to use that fact as some kind of indication of the

program's success, but quite the opposite may be true. When some

citizens heard that they wouldn't get paid for their guns, according to

the Daily News, they turned around and left without dropping

off their weapons. The gun haul, in other words, could have been

larger, and therefore more successful, if there were more gifts cards

on hand.

The LAPD, though, does release an annual, public

document called a “statistical digest,” which offers a detailed survey

of crimes in the city for a given year. While it will be difficult, if

not impossible, to know for certain if Saturday's gun buyback program

will decrease the number of gun shot victims in Los Angeles, the digest

will have hard figures for the total number of gun shot victims in

2009. That report won't come out until sometime in 2010, but citizens

can at least compare the total number of gun shot victims of 2008 with

those of 2009 and come to their own conclusions.

The public, in the meantime, is still waiting for the LAPD to release the 2008 statistical digest on the police department's web site–five months into the new year.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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