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Residents Cash In Guns for Peace of Mind
District Police Host Buyback to Get Firearms Out of Homes and Off the Streets

By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 17, 2006

Francinina Jones grabbed her husband's long shotgun, the one he became attached to during years of hunting, and marched straight to the police station in Southeast D.C.

"I wanted the gun out of the house," said Jones, 55, who lives in Southeast and traded the firearm for a $50 payment from the city. "There's too much killing, all these young people have guns."

Jones and hundreds of others got cash for guns as part of the police department's gun buyback program, which yesterday netted 337 firearms and paid area residents about $16,700.

Those who turned in guns at one of three District police stations tended to be middle-aged or older people who had firearms lying around the house and no longer had a use for them. Many said they did not want them to be stolen or involved in an accident.

"You're not going to get the guy going around robbing people on the street turning in guns," said Cmdr. Joel Maupin, who is in charge of the department's 7th District in Southeast.

If police can reduce the number of guns in homes, they can cut down on the likelihood they will make it to the street, Maupin said.

The department paid for the weapons with $250,000 it received as part of the emergency crime bill the city passed in July in response to a spike in homicides, robberies and other crime.

Police got everything from TEC-9 pistols to hunting rifles. Some people also turned in ammunition.

Taft Wallace, 71, showed up with a .38-caliber pistol and a .25-caliber semiautomatic. They belonged to his brother-in-law, a retired police officer who lives in Southeast, he said.

"He's got grandchildren floating all over the house," said Wallace, who had just gotten $200 for the weapons and was being escorted to his car by an officer. "He wants them out."

Handguns are illegal in the District, but residents can get permits for shotguns and rifles. Police accepted any kind of working firearm yesterday, no questions asked.

Residents of the District, Prince George's, Montgomery and Arlington counties and the city of Alexandria were eligible to turn in weapons for cash. Police from several of those jurisdictions said their departments do not have gun buyback programs. In previous buybacks, D.C. police also have accepted weapons from suburbanites.

Maupin said the District is happy to buy guns from its neighbors because guns from across the region are often used to commit crimes in the city.

"A lot of guns from other jurisdictions come into D.C.," Maupin said. "We share the same concerns."

The city paid $100 for assault rifles and automatic and semiautomatic pistols; $50 for revolvers, rifles, shotguns and derringers; and $10 for air, BB and pellet guns. Gun dealers were not permitted to participate.

Before buying them, police checked the guns to make sure they were operable. If not, they kept them, but they would not pay for them.

Officers plan to fire the guns and match them against a database to see if any have been involved in crimes.

Police departments, civic groups and religious organizations around the country occasionally hold gun buyback initiatives in an effort to reduce violent crime.

In the District, police held a guns-for-cash exchange in 1999 and 2000. In 2000, the District spent $250,000 -- half local and half federal money -- and netted 3,362 guns.

Yesterday, several people said the guns they sold to the city were inherited.

Robert Greene sold a .38 Special and a post-World War I Italian derringer. He got the derringer from his late mother, who he said "had it around the house." Greene, 58, who lives in Southeast, said he heard about the program on TV and decided to come in.

Another woman, who declined to give her name, said she was uneasy driving to the District from Wheaton with her late father's shotgun and rifle. She had them wrapped in a quilt, and asked an officer to go to her car to retrieve them because she didn't want to handle them.

The woman said her father, who died two years ago, had lived in the Eastern Shore and used the guns for hunting.

"I didn't want to carry them around," said the woman, 42. "I was nervous all the way over here."

Anyone wanting to get rid of a firearm may take it to any police station. Police only pay for guns during buybacks.

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