• Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

— "Well, it's not illegal...yet."

"I'll wait till it is," the big man says as he climbs in his car and leaves.

"A lot of people come in with Chinese 56s," Alfaro explains as we walk back toward the office. "See, those guns are only worth about 100 bucks, less if they're in the condition his were in. So people figure they'll come in here and get $230 for a gun that's only worth $100."

When we reach the station door, Deputy Price walks up with a clean-cut young man about 20 years old. "Hey, Flavio," Deputy Price says, "this guy's got an SKS. I just looked at it, and it doesn't have a detachable magazine. Why don't you look at it and make sure."

The young man leads us to his Toyota MR-2, where his girlfriend waits in the passenger seat. He pops the trunk open and Alfaro leans in and picks up a pristine rifle. "I've never even fired it," the owner tells him.

"This is a Chinese 56," Alfaro says. "It's not the type that qualifies for our program. See this Chinese writing..."

For the next three and a half hours this scene is repeated over and over. Not one Sporter comes in. About 20 Chinese 56s come and go, one Russian 45, one .22 caliber rifle made to look like an M-16, and three Mak-90s (an AK-47-style assault rifle more powerful than the SKS Sporter yet still legal). Alfaro tells everyone who comes that their guns are legal and the Department of Justice is not buying them back. Some seem relieved, saying they just wanted to make sure they were in conformity with the law. Others seem disappointed -- one guy needed the money to pay his rent -- and many confess they thought they were going to get $230 for a $100 gun. Many ask, "Sure you can't buy it back anyway?" Alfaro tells them, "No, but we can take it for destruction if you just want to get rid of it."

Only the lady who brought in the .22 takes him up on this offer. Then she calls her husband who tells her, much to the delight of Deputy Price who would have had to do the paperwork, not to have it destroyed. One man asks Alfaro, "What about you personally? Want to buy it off me?"

Alfaro declines. I ask him if he thinks the voucher amount is too low to attract sellers. "No," he answers. "The SKS Sporter runs somewhere between $225 and $275 at the gun shops. And that's new. The D.O.J. [Department of Justice] is giving $230 for used Sporters in any condition. You'd have a hard time selling it used to anybody else for $230. This is just the way these buy-backs have gone. The first time we did it here in July there was a total of maybe four people that came in and one had a Sporter. In Lemon Grove we took in six Sporters out of a total of 54 people who came in. The other 40-some were Russian 45s or Chinese 56s. We had one person come in with a model 84, which is already on the assault weapons list, but he was in legal possession of it because it was registered to him. Then we had other people come in with different miscellaneous styles of rifles or shotguns who didn't understand what the program was about."

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

More from SDReader

Comments

Sign in to comment

Join our
newsletter list

Enter to win $25 at Broken Yolk Cafe

Each newsletter subscription
means another chance to win!

Close