Police display weapons cache 326 guns collected after tips or arrests

January 22, 1991|By William B. Talbott and Michael A. Fletcher | William B. Talbott and Michael A. Fletcher,Evening Sun Staff Patrick Gilbert contributed to this story.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Police Commissioner Edward W. Woods stared down the barrels of 326 guns and liked what they saw.

The arsenal was made up of guns confiscated by city police since Dec. 13, when the city launched its "Stop the Tears" campaign. The program, which was initiated to combat the city's high homicide rate, asks citizens to call 911, the police emergency number, to anonymously report people they suspect are carrying illegal weapons.

City officials have been publicizing the program and Schmoke and Woods held a news conference yesterday to alert the public to the large number of gun-toting criminals on city streets.

Tips to police resulted in 16 arrests for handgun violations and the confiscation of 16 of the firearms displayed yesterday. The remaining 310 weapons were confiscated when police arrested suspects wanted in connection with other crimes, police said.

The cache included 266 handguns, 34 shotguns and 26 rifles. The pistols ranged from Saturday Night Specials, which are cheaply made and easily concealable, to Uzi semiautomatic assault rifles.

Last year, city police confiscated 2,244 handguns. The number of handguns displayed yesterday was not much different from the number of confiscations made during similar six-week periods last year.

"Disarmament must begin at home," said Schmoke, the guns spread before him. "This country must be ashamed of the amount of guns on the streets today."

The gun-recovery program is part of a larger city effort to slow the rising homicide rate. Last year, Baltimore recorded 305 homicides, the highest total since 1972.

At the time of yesterday's news conference, 22 homicides had been reported, about 70 percent of which are classified as domestic. The other 30 percent are thought to be drug-related, police said.

Meanwhile, the following gun-related measures are slated for introduction at tonight's City Council meeting:

* One resolution calls for the Police Department to revive a program known as Operation P.A.S.S. (People Against Senseless Shootings). Under this program, the police department paid citizens who turned in guns. The program operated in 1974 and 1975. During those two years, police purchased and destroyed about 14,000 guns.

* A bill would prohibit gun owners from leaving guns unattended and accessible to minors. The measure would require guns to be kept in locked storage.

Violators of the so-called "Trigger Lock Bill" would be subject to a fine of $1,000 or one year imprisonment or both.

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