Community group holds gun buy-back in San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO – “It is not the guns that are dangerous. It is the person behind the gun,” Baguio native Rudy Corpuz said, explaining that he was not against gun possession even as he seemed obsessed with getting guns off the streets.
Corpuz, founder of South of the Market Area (SoMA) community organization United Playaz (UP) and an admitted former felon who had a string of incidents behind him, was criticized by some quarters as indirectly ‘curtailing” citizens’ right to bear arms.
“I am not for taking away guns from people who are responsible and have a registered gun in their houses, especially when they have those guns in trying to protect their families,” he said.
“But when people are running on the streets with guns, who are not responsible, not reliable, or they have mental health issues, that is dangerous because once he fires a gun, a bullet does not have no name. It is going to destroy, tear anything on its path,” Corpuz added. “A lot of innocent people are affected by it.”
Corpuz on March 21 was explaining to guests at his United Playaz center on Howard Street after they were done with their second gun buyback program that yielded around 109 guns, three of them high-powered assault weapon. Some were 9 mm handguns and .38-caliber shotguns.
The program bought back handguns at $100 each while assault weapons were for $200 each, no questions asked.
Spurred by violent incidents
Corpuz admitted that he himself had a lot of episodes about guns. In fact, the date of the gun buy back coincided with the date his first cousin was shot dead in a San Francisco club ten years ago.
Another relative, a nephew, who was having a nice time with girl in a club, had his head blown off after a fight broke out and bullets were suddenly flying everywhere. It turned out that his nephew has just tried to take a peek while hiding behind a car and a stray bullet hit him in the head.
“One in three homes has an unlocked, loaded gun and imagine when a kid gets hold it. There is a chance that he can shoot his parents, siblings and even himself,” Corpuz warned.
This United Playaz follow-up gun buyback was an offshoot of the first one they did on December 14, 2014, when 101 functioning guns were turned over to them. The December buy-back was prompted by shooting incidents that happened months before when two young guys were killed.
The program traces its roots to Ian Johnson whose father, a visitor in San Francisco, was shot dead by a 16-year-old who had stolen a gun. The campaign was very successful then even if it was something new.
The successful December experience prompted UP to raise $20,000 for this successful recent event. Coincidentally, that January, four men were murdered inside their car, prompting Corpuz and company to decide to do the buy-back again, this time, in coordination with San Francisco District 5 Supervisor London Breed, who gave the approval to do the buy-back in her district.
“We generated the revenue for the last program from medical marijuana stores who have been kind enough to donate for this cause. And there was also a tech giant Ron Conway, who donated some money to not only get guns off the street, but also to create jobs for the youth and help mothers in need who lost their kids in gun violence,” Corpuz said.
To get the word out, Corpuz assembled a team, printed out copies of fliers they distributed and posted all around the city. They also went to friends on radio station to speak about it, also did interviews on both television and radio stations.
The gun buy-back turned out to be a success, getting a lot of volunteer support from the community, the San Francisco Police Department and 5th District Supervisor London Breed’s office.
Authorities destroy (by burning) guns that were bought back; those whose serial numbers prove they have been stolen are given back to their owners.
“The reasons a lot of young people have guns — first for self-defense, then to appear tough and cool. But honestly, I don’t think they really know the repercussions and consequences on having a gun in your hand,” Corpuz stressed.
Corpuz exhorted youth to get involved with helping to silence the violence now and not just when something happens to family, friends and other loved ones. “Put God first then take care of your family.”
Corpuz founded United Playaz in 1994 to build a safe place for kids and teens after school, instead of them joining gangs or getting into other kinds of trouble.
Its employees, composed mostly of ex-felons who grew up in San Francisco like Corpuz, do a lot of violence prevention outreach by going to schools and by talking to kids on the streets.
Too close to home
Corpuz related another recent gun incident that affected him.
“I had a house visit on a Saturday with a client. The father of the kid of my client was cleaning one of his guns. He asked the wife to go to the store to get a gun cleaner. I was then left there with the father and the kid who was playing video games on TV. The father got up, gave me a strange stare then went to the bathroom,” Corpuz related.
Ten minutes later, the phone rang and it was the wife on the line who asked for her husband.
“I went knocking on the bathroom door but got no answer. I was able to open the unlocked door and found myself seated beside a man whose head was blown off, blood oozing out of his eyes, ears, nose, mouth but still had his eyes staring at me. He died shortly after and I had to give comfort to a screaming kid who saw his father waste away,” Corpuz narrated.
He didn’t hear any gunshot because a silencer was attached to the gun. The guy committed suicide because he had AIDS.
“The stench of the Dad’s body as he died clung to my body. I smelled death,” Corpuz chillingly remembered. “That is one reason why I started this campaign.”
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