Raymond Mathis surveyed the lobby of the 4th District police headquarters on Georgia Avenue NW, cluttered with antsy residents, most of them elderly, waiting to collect cash for their guns.
"Look around. Where are the young guys, the people who are making a living with firearms? They are not here!" declared Mathis, 55, of Hyattsville, who turned in two guns.
On the upside, Mathis said, he was ridding his home of the guns to prevent any mishaps and to protect three grandchildren who often visit.
Residents flocked to a citywide gun amnesty program on its second and final day yesterday. By the end of the evening, police had collected 1,058 guns, in addition to the 1,164 received on the program's first day, paying $100 for each eligible weapon and nearly using up the allotted $225,000 in confiscated drug money.
At the 4th District, which netted the most guns of the city's seven patrol districts, police briefly ran out of money. At one point yesterday afternoon, Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer took $60 from his pocket to buy sodas for people waiting.
Criminal justice experts say such amnesty programs have little effect on the overall rate of violent crime but may make individual homes safer.
Still, at the close of the program last night, Gainer talked of the program's benefits.
"I still think we have every reason to feel some sense of satisfaction," he said, explaining that some guns in homes are stolen and used in street crimes. "I think we provided some measure of additional safety by removing some 2,000 guns. That's a lot of guns."
He said the department will consider more buyback programs in the future and seek out other sources of funding. "I'm not convinced we couldn't keep this up every day and have people keep bringing [guns] in," he added.
Although buying or selling a handgun in the District has been illegal since 1976, officials estimated there were hundreds of thousands of firearms in the District at the peak of the crack cocaine epidemic in the early 1990s.
Today, the figure is closer to 142,000, said Gary Kleck, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Florida State University. Kleck based his estimate on the assumption that the District has the same rate of handgun ownership as nearby cities of similar size. Under that assumption, the 2,222 firearms cleared off the streets this week would amount to 1.6 percent of the city's gun stock, Kleck said.
Just 10 states provide nearly four-fifths of all guns recovered in the District. Between August 1997 and July 1998, the latest period for which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has compiled data, authorities recovered a firearm in 3,292 cases in the District. Of the guns traced by the bureau, 23 percent were from Virginia, 20.1 percent from Maryland, 11.9 percent from Florida and 5.6 percent from North Carolina.
Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, said "a buyback in D.C. probably has a greater potential for a positive effect than anywhere else in the country" because of the city's ban on unregistered handguns. However, the flow of guns into the District from outside will limit the buyback's impact, he said.
Police officials said the gun amnesty program would be more effective if conducted on a regional level. "You could imagine what the magnitude of this would be if we all came together," said 3rd District Cmdr. Jose Acosta. Gainer said a regional buyback program is "ripe for discussion."
Gun amnesties were offered in the District in 1991, 1993 and 1994. One of the biggest was in January 1994, when police collected 3,600 firearms in Anacostia from people who received $100 each from funds donated by heavyweight boxer Riddick Bowe and his manager.
Northeast resident Evelyn McKenly, 79, turned in a gun yesterday that her husband, a building engineer who died in 1991, had obtained for safety. "The gun was lying all these years in the drawer," she said.
Molly M. Jones, a clinical psychologist who runs a private practice in Shaw, turned in a gun she had persuaded a suicidal patient to surrender in 1996. Jones cited the amnesty offer, saying she didn't turn the gun in earlier because she dislikes paperwork.
The gun amnesty was not lost on the young. Robert Webster, 9, stood next to his brother Marcus, 5, and his grandmother, Josephine Little, 61, as she turned in a gun. "I think it's smart," Robert said of his grandmother's decision. "My brother might just walk up to it and play with it."
CAPTION: Officers T.R. Roscoe, left, and G.M. Hines, in uniforms, collect and tag guns turned in by a steady stream of donors at the 4th District station.
CAPTION: Officer Marquis Queen lays down weapons turned in at the 4th District, which collected more weapons than any other police district. The police department responded to the turnout for the buyback by more than doubling its budget, and it went through nearly $225,000 in confiscated drug money in just two days.
CAPTION: A clear message is scratched onto the side of this pistol-grip pump shotgun, one of hundreds of weapons turned in at the 4th District station.