To skirt potential delays, D.C. police will forgo federal funding for a District-wide gun amnesty program next week and will instead use $100,000 in seized drug money in an effort to buy back 1,000 weapons, an official said yesterday.
"We wanted to get it going quicker . . . and we didn't want to get caught up in the bureaucracy of this," Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer said yesterday. The program will begin Monday.
Police turned to the quick funding plan when they came up with the idea for the second buy-back Friday, the final day of a smaller but wildly successful program run by the 6th Police District in Northeast Washington. That program spent more than $20,000 in department money and $30,000 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to pay residents $100 for every operable handgun, assault rifle or sawed-off shotgun. Next week's program will offer the same amount for those guns.
Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey "wanted to execute this one as soon as possible," Gainer said, adding that seeking federal money could have delayed the project.
Reliance on federal funding resulted in an embarrassing snag last Thursday when the five-day program was forced to close down for the day when some of the HUD money wasn't delivered in time. Dozens of residents walked off holding illegal guns after being turned away.
Gainer said that the department hopes to offer a guns-for-cash swap twice a year and that "we're going to continue exploring federal funds if they want to partner this in the future."
He noted the irony of using forfeited drug money to buy back the weapons. He said the department seizes about $800,000 in drug proceeds annually.
"We have actually snickered a bit that we can turn those ill-gotten gains into something very positive for the city," he said.
Last week's program netted about 600 handguns, rifles and shotguns. After the first day, police continued to accept rifles and shotguns but didn't pay for them.
This time around, residents--from the District and beyond--will be able to surrender guns at any of the seven police districts.
Gainer said the program will run from 3 to 8 p.m. on Monday and continue through the week until the money runs out.
"If we do it all in the first hour, then it'll be over in the first hour," he said, adding that if the money runs out, people standing in line will be given $100 vouchers in exchange for their guns. "We don't want anyone to leave a police facility with an illegal gun."
All guns will undergo ballistic tests to see if they can be linked to unsolved crimes. So far, Gainer said, no gun tested from last week's haul has been linked to a crime.