Today’s News: 1,500 guns; Bird flap; Grand Central redo

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Gun dump. A pair of gun buyback events netted more than 1,500 firearms, including several dozen assault weapons. The number might have been even higher had the city not run out of gift cards. L.A. typically holds its gun buyback events in May, but they were moved up in hopes that collective anguish from the Newtown shootings would spur more people to give up their weapons. Some folks waited in line for hours to turn in their guns at the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena and the Van Nuys Masonic Temple. Critics say the city wastes money paying for broken and worthless firearms. But LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said the buyback program is well worth the cost. KABC

Pasadena puzzle. Pasadena police are trying to determine whether a loaded gun thrown from a sports utility vehicle that was involved in a fatal traffic collision is connected to a deadly shooting. An 11-year-old boy and a 25-year-old woman died on Christmas night when their minivan was rammed by the SUV during a police pursuit. Three other people were injured. Police say the driver of the SUV sped off after officers tried to pull him over for running a stop sign. All four people in the SUV have been booked on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter. Police say someone threw a loaded gun out of the SUV before it crashed. They’re investigating whether that gun may have been involved in a fatal drive-by shooting earlier on Christmas Day. The victim in that shooting has been identified as Victor McClinton, 49, an employee of the Sheriff’s Department and a volunteer youth coach. Pasadena Star News

Clear cut. The Army Corps of Engineers has cleared 80 acres of vegetation in a San Fernando Valley wildlife refuge – a move that has bird lovers squawking. The Army Corps says it stripped the area bare to help police a part of the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Refuge known for homeless camps and lewd behavior. The Army Corps says the move was also part of a restoration plan that involves removing non-native trees and shrubs. But the Audubon Society says a lot of native vegetation was removed along with the non-native plants. The group says the Army Corps devastated an area that attracts numerous migratory bird species. L.A. Daily News

Grand Central casting
. Grand Central Market opened in 1917 and has long been at the intersection of L.A. food and L.A. history. The market’s old-school stalls have sold everything from fresh meat and fruit to pupusas and piping hot bowls of chow mein to generations of Angelenos. Now, big changes are coming. The L.A. Times reports the owners have hired a design consultant to renovate and rethink the 27,000-square foot downtown market. The emphasis will be on the upscale: Think micro-brews and artisanal cheese, bread and chocolate. The makeover is being driven by demographic changes downtown and is expected to take years to complete. L.A. Times

Hold the pastrami. Westside mainstay Junior’s Deli is preparing to shut its doors at the end of year because of a rent dispute. Junior’s opened in 1959 and moved to its current location on Westwood Boulevard eight years later. David Saul, son of late founder Marvin Saul, tells the L.A. Times that negotiations with the landlord broke down over a proposed rent hike. Sales have been slumping in recent years and the staff numbers 95 workers, down from a high of 150 a decade ago. L.A. Times