Trading in Guns for Skateboards, No Questions Asked


Published in Huck Magazine


"In 2008 as Barack Obama took the presidential oath, firearms outnumbered people for the first time.  Today, there are an estimated 357 million guns to 317 million people."


The gun buyback in San Diego started with a tragic killing back in 2008, Monique Palmer and Mike Taylor were shot and killed in a random act of gang violence, they were fifteen years old.  Reverend Gerald Brown who is a  pastor, wanted to do something to help reduce the amount of guns on the street.  He says the community comes together and gives money to help with funeral costs, however, he wanted to do something that could help longterm.  Brown told the District Attorney his idea about a gun buyback and asked if he would match the amount raised.


The police do not ask any questions about the guns that are dropped off.   It's not in their interest to know if the guns are legal or not.  The idea is for people to get rid of their guns and drop them off for a gift card or a longboard.  The police are there to help facilitate, they document the registration numbers and if a gun is flagged, they will take a closer look at the gun.  If the guns are not flagged or the serial number has been removed, the police will destroy the guns.


Harvey Hawks a pro-skater in the 70's.  Hawks life changed in 1986 when he got into an altercation with a woman driving a van, he fired a shotgun at close range, the bullet killed an off-duty police officer, Patricia Faye Dwyer. Hawks served twenty-six years in prison.  Hawks says everyday he regrets what happened, taking the life of Dwyer, however, he can try and make amends by being part of this project.


Neil Carver, founder of Carver Skateboards.  Carver donated his skateboards to the buyback.  Carver says that "skateboarding isn't just a sport, or a way to get around: it's a way of life, a mindset."

 As police and pro skaters were setting up in the early morning on December 18, 2015, people started to creep in early so they could beat the traffic. 

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As the sun sets, a skateboarder skates around as cars start lining up so they can drop off their guns for skateboards or gift cards.

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The donated skateboards by Neil Carver.

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Pastor Gerry Brown and San Diego Chief of Police Shelley Zimmerman talk before people start trading their guns. Zimmerman has been the Chief of Police in San Diego since 2014, she has an extensive background, including Vice, Narcotics Task Force, Internal Affairs, Multi-Cultural Community Relations Office, to name a few.

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As the sun rises, rows of cars can be seen waiting so they can drop off their guns for gift cards or skateboards.

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A man waits in his car to drop off his gun. 

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Police collect weapons and encourage people dropping them off to trade them for a skateboard.

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Harvey Hawks, a former pro skaterboarder (who went to prison for 26 years for killing Patricia Faye Dwyer in a road rage incident) signs a child's skateboard after his father dropped off a gun.

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A boy holds his signed skateboard by Harvey Hawks, a former pro skaterboarder (who went to prison for 26 years for killing Patricia Faye Dwyer in a road rage incident).

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Dennis Martinez, a former pro skater takes a moment in between giving out skateboards to hug his daughter.

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Police take a gun out of car to be thrown out.

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Police looking at one of the guns that was dropped off at Guns for Longboards.

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Dennis Martinez, helps pick out a skateboard.

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Harvey Hawks signs girl's skateboard after father just dropped off his gun.

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Driver drops off his gun and get a signed skateboard at Guns for Longboards.

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Lisa Ortiz attends Guns for Longboards. Ortiz lost her daughter to gun violence six years ago, her daughter was at a birthday party when a fight broke and Marcella was hit by a stray bullet, she was 21 years old when she died.

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A picture of Lisa Ortiz's daughter, Marcella served as a reminder of how gun violence can change your life in an instant.

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232 guns were collected at Guns for Longboards on December 18, 2015.

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