The D.C. police officer who initiated the District's latest round of gun-amnesty programs said yesterday that he hopes to capitalize on a renewed cry for tougher handgun laws and push for a nationwide gun buyback program.
"People are fed up with handgun violence," said Andre Wright, chief gun investigator in the 6th Police District. "My intention is to meet with D.C. police officials next week to see about starting a nationwide gun buyback program."
Wright unveiled his plan several hours after Mayor Anthony A. Williams gave him a public commendation for his efforts and announced the successful completion of the District's Operation Gun Tip. The two-day program, which ended Tuesday, netted 2,306 firearms.
Terrance W. Gainer, executive assistant police chief, said that he was open to exploring a nationwide program but that it might be wise first to explore a regional program and straighten out any glitches before moving ahead with a more grandiose plan.
"It's an interesting concept," he said, adding that the department next year intends to launch either a citywide or possibly a regional program.
Meanwhile, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), said last night that she plans to introduce legislation soon to provide funding for buyback programs in cities "experiencing certain levels of gun problems." More immediately, she said, she's seeking federal funds for future District buyback programs.
"At a time of gun proliferation, we haven't found any way to reverse this process," she said. "Buybacks at least get guns coming off streets."
This week's citywide gun exchange, the District's first since 1994, was an outgrowth of a program earlier this month created by Williams in the 6th District in Northeast Washington. That program netted 602 guns. Williams conceived the 6th District program to reduce the gun population in public housing developments. The Department of Housing and Urban Development helped fund the program. The citywide program was funded with seized drug money.
Together, the citywide and 6th District programs netted 2,908 firearms, 20 percent more than the number of firearms police confiscated last year, Gainer said.
In the past year, gun buyback programs have surfaced in such cities as New York, Tampa and Pittsburgh. Other cities are considering them.
The most common guns surrendered this week included .22- and .38-caliber revolvers, Gainer said. Residents also surrendered about 55 sawed-off shotguns, six 9mm semiautomatic pistols and one live hand grenade, which police explosives experts detonated, he said.
Area residents, including suburbanites, were paid $100 for each operable gun, no questions asked.
In an appearance on the "Today" show yesterday morning, Gainer said those who turned in guns "tended to be older couples, grandparents. There were an awful lot of women." He said the program will reduce the risk of people being hurt in burglaries and domestic incidents.
Criminal justice experts believe gun amnesty programs have only a limited impact on violent crime. But police officials noted guns often are accidentally discharged in homes or stolen in burglaries and used in subsequent crimes.
"Taking guns out of circulation is just one example--just one example--of our overall crime strategy," Williams said, citing other anti-crime measures including efforts to shut down drug markets and a $15 million federal grant to hire 200 police officers.
Patrick D. Hynes, special agent in charge of the Washington field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said his office will perform ballistic tests on all the guns and submit a report to D.C. officials within 90 days. The information will be used to analyze gun trafficking patterns and see whether weapons can be linked to shootings, Hynes said.
Preliminary ballistic tests on 10 guns taken from the 6th District amnesty showed one of the guns was stolen in 1989 from a residence in Forestville, Gainer said. He said eventually all the guns collected will be destroyed.
CAPTION: Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer talks about the District's gun amnesty program. Behind him are Patrick D. Hynes, of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams.