The Connecticut elementary school massacre in December has prompted a new wave of gun buy-back programs in communities around the country.
There is no clearinghouse for data on such programs, but cities from Seattle to Tampa are reporting heightened interest and overwhelming responses in wake of the Newtown Sandy Hook school tragedy.
The buy-backs are yielding thousands of firearms, including military rocket-propelled grenade devices and illegal automatic machine guns.
In Tampa, two rocket launchers and a number of sawed-off shotguns were turned in earlier this month. Also included: a flute that had been fashioned into a one-shot, .22-caliber gun, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Capt. Chad Chronister said.
Camden, N.J., Police Chief Scott Thomson said seven machine guns and a powerful "safari'' rifle capable of taking down big-game were part of a weapons cache recovered there in December.
"On the streets,'' Thomson said, the game rifle could "cut a human in half.''
Last month, Seattle police were taken aback with the seizure of an expended rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
Two similar RPG devices also were turned over to Los Angeles Police Department officials in a post-Newtown buy-back event.
The unusual weaponry has not been the only distinguishing feature of the programs in which city officials have been offering up to $200 in cash and gifts to rid their communities of unwanted weapons.
In every case, police have been swamped with people wanting to dispose of their guns. Communities have hosted such events in the past, especially in wake of high-profile gun-related violence. But there is broad disagreement, even among law enforcement officials, over whether the strategy is effective in reducing gun crimes.
"There is a great deal of symbolic value, but I have seen no evidence that it substantially reduces violence,'' said Bernard Melekian, the Justice Department's director of Community Oriented Policing Services. "The problems related to the misuse of firearms are so complex, people want to do something.''
But just as Newtown has served as a catalyst for legislative proposals, the incident is jump-starting buy-back programs.
"This is an issue on a lot of minds,'' Seattle Police Det. Mark Jamieson said, referring to the post-Newtown gun debate. "Our concern is with getting these unwanted weapons that are laying around and unsecured off the street, because bad things could happen.''
Chronister said Hillsborough County, which includes the Tampa area, staged its buy-back program Feb. 2, after being "inundated'' with calls and e-mails.
"These were people who just didn't want their firearms anymore because of the Sandy Hook tragedy, and they wanted a way to dispose of them,'' Chronister said. "The outcry from the community was too large to ignore.''
The result, the captain said, was "overwhelming.''
A local record 2,668 firearms were turned in to police, more than double the number anticipated, though much attention was trained on the RPG devices and the "flute-gun.''
"Something like that (flute) is extremely scary to me,'' Chronister said.
For each weapon, police provided $75 and two tickets each to an upcoming Tampa Bay Lightning hockey game and a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game. In one exchange, a single gun owner turned in 35 firearms. Some waited in lines for up to two hours.
Similar scenes have played out across the country.
At last month's event in Seattle, Jamieson said 719 firearms were turned in during a span of about three hours.
Although conditions of the program -- like those in other cities -- allowed owners to exchange the weapons with no questions asked, Jamieson said the owner of the launch device "really cooperated'' and the military was notified of the recovery.
"This was an overwhelming response,'' Seattle Deputy Chief Nick Metz said after the event.
Thomson, the Camden chief, said the first day of the city's two-day buy-back program coincidentally was held on Dec. 14, the date of the Newtown shooting. Although 375 firearms were netted on the first day, the aftershocks from Newtown drove the second day total to 762.
"The Newtown tragedy had a profound impact on our program,'' Thomson said. By 11 a.m. on Dec. 15, he said, officials had paid out all of the $100,000 that had been budgeted for the event by New Jersey Attorney General Jeff Chiesa, leaving crowds of people at two local churches still seeking to dispose of their firearms.
"The attorney general committed to keep the doors open and to issue IOUs'' to those remaining in line, Thomson said.