Saying "disarmament must begin at home," Mayor Schmoke and Police Commissioner Edward W. Woods are asking city residents to anonymously report people suspected of carrying illegal firearms. Their appeal, part of a larger campaign begun last December called "Stop the Tears," is aimed at abating a homicide epidemic which police say is directly related to the number of gun-toting criminals on city streets.
Paradoxically, most illegal handguns are stolen during burglaries from people who originally bought them for protection in the home. Thus they become the very weapons most likely to wind up in criminal arsenals. Indeed, studies have shown that handguns purchased for self defense in the home are far more likely to be used against their owners or members of their owners' families than against an intruder.
The gun-recovery effort called for by the mayor and Commis sioner Woods not only needs citizen support but also action by the City Council. Specifically, the council needs to revive the voluntary collection program under which citizens were paid for turning in guns, no questions asked, and pass a bill requiring adults to keep guns under lock and key around minors. All the weapons under the program would be melted down and their metal recycled.
Police can never hope to turn all these swords into plowshares but with luck such voluntary programs, combined with tougher rules on firearms ownership, should at least put a dent in the city's soaring homicide rate.