Pittsburg is on track to be the first community in East Contra Costa County to have a gun buyback program.

The March 16 program at Civic Center is restricted to residents of Bay Point and Pittsburg. The program will pay $200 for operating firearms, $300 for assault weapons and $50 for nonoperating weapons.

Such programs are subject to debate as to what impact they have on lowering crime rates, given that many criminals buy illegal guns.

The guns that are purchased by the program will be destroyed. "In my mind, it will prevent the gun from being used in a violent crime or in a suicide," police Chief Brian Addington said Wednesday.

The buyback program is the result of a partnership involving police, local nonprofits, including Club Yahaulica and Souljahs, and private companies. Money for the program comes from donations made by the partnering nonprofits and private companies.

"We are still getting donations. Our intention is to have enough money so we don't have to hand out vouchers," Addington said. "No city funds are being used."

Those who bring firearms will be asked to show identification to prove they live in Pittsburg or Bay Point. Police will not be checking for warrants.

Gun buyback programs aren't new, but in recent months, interest in them has picked up following the Newtown school shooting in December. Pittsburg will join a growing list of cities, including Oakland and San Francisco, that have sponsored gun buyback programs since then.

"Obviously, it's a direct response to violence that has occurred nationally, and I think it's fantastic that our police department has acted so quickly and secured funding," Vice Mayor Sal Evola said.

While Pittsburg's crime rate is at a historic low since police have been keeping statistics 55 years ago, there has been an uptick in violent crimes in recent months and two gun-related homicides in January.

Mayor Nancy Parent said the buyback program is yet another tool police can use to address crime.

"Our police department is very proactive and will do everything they legally can with the resources we're able to give them to keep everybody in the city safe," said Parent, who cannot recall Pittsburg ever having a gun buyback program in the last 50 years.

Parent recalled turning in a rifle to police two years ago that was used for target shooting on a ranch when she was growing up. "I was cleaning out my mother's house and ended up with it," she said. "I thought, I don't want this gun in my house."

While gun buyback programs aim to get guns off the streets, they also play an important role in getting improperly stored guns out of homes, Evola said.

"Guns in many homes are not locked up securely or are not being stored properly," he said. "Those are the ones police also want to buy. Those are the ones that a child stumbles upon locked up in grandfather's closet."

Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.

Gun Buy-Back Program
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 16
Where: Pittsburg City Hall, 65 Civic Ave.
What: $200 for operable handguns, shotguns and rifles; $300 for assault weapons that meet state of California definition; $50 for nonoperational firearms. Firearms should be transported unloaded in the trunk of a vehicle. Although payment will be made for a maximum of three firearms, there is no limit as to how many guns can be turned in. Ammunition can also be turned in, but there will no payment.
Info: For more information or to make financial contribution to support the buyback program, call 925-252-4811.