City police offer curbside service for unwanted guns

January 07, 1991|By Roger Twigg

Psst! Anyone got a gun you want to get rid of?

It doesn't have to be fancy or new or in good repair. Neither does it have to be one of those high-powered automatic or semi-automatic submachine guns favored by drug killers.

And if you don't have a car, the weapon can be picked up at your home.

Police from the Southeastern District will be glad to call on you, no questions asked.

All you have to do is call 396-2422 or 633-2604 (leave a message on the recorder if no one answers) and a police officer will come by and pick up whatever gun you want to be rid of.

Since early December, Maj. Harry J. Koffenberger, commander of the Southeastern District, has been sending out this message to the public through what he calls his Peace of Mind Gun Collection Program.

The appeal is not aimed at criminals. Many guns stolen from law-abiding citizens in burglaries are later used in the commission of crimes because the weapons often have no history with the police.

The response hasn't exactly been overwhelming, but 20 handguns, including a brand new .38-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun still in its original box, a rifle and a shotgun, have been turned over to district officers.

"Was I expecting a massive turn-in?" asked Major Koffenberger. "No, I was just hoping to educate the public on how they could get rid of unwanted guns. I think I succeeded in doing that."

Many of the guns that have been given to the police came from middle-aged people and senior citizens whose relatives died and

left them with weapons they didn't know what to do with and didn't want around the house, the district commander said.

Major Koffenberger said that in most instances the people who are giving up the guns are gaining a little "peace of mind" that the potentially lethal weapons are no longer around the house and will not end up in the wrong hands.

The guns are eventually taken to the Bethlehem Steel plant where they are destroyed, the major said.

The gun program in the Southeastern District began after a lawyer contacted Major Koffenberger to ask how he could dispose of a handgun from an estate settlement.

It was then that the major decided to "educate the public" on what to do with such weapons. Fliers on the gun program have been distributed, and community and church organizations have been contacted.

"The police department always did have a program where you could turn in weapons," he said.

"This program was being overlooked. I just needed to re-educate them about it."

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