City Council seeking ways to curb violence in Baltimore Measures focus on weapons

November 09, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

A distressed Baltimore City Council searched for solutions last night to the epidemic of violence that recently claimed the life of 10-year-old Tauris Johnson and left Tia Lipscomb with a bullet wound in her back.

With the city on pace to exceed last year's record toll of 335 murders, one councilman called for offering rewards to schoolchildren to get information on weapons while another urged increasing federal taxes on handgun ammunition.

"Let's start a crusade to turn in the guns," said Councilman Lawrence A. Bell III, a 4th District Democrat who wants to create a school program patterned after Metro Crime Stoppers, which offers up to a $1,000 reward for information on criminals.

"If you know anyone in school who has a gun, if you know anyone who has a knife, if you know anyone who has any weapon at all -- tell us," Mr. Bell said. "We have to have an all-out crusade. We've got to say, 'Look, we've got to get rid of these guns. They're killing us.' "

His measure to establish a city fund to provide small monetary rewards and scholarships to students who provide tips on weapons was widely supported in the council.

The majority of the 19 council members also backed a resolution by Councilman Melvin L. Stukes, a 6th District Democrat, calling on the state and federal government to drastically increase taxes on handgun bullets. Local jurisdictions have no control over taxing ammunition.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat, is spearheading a drive to make handgun control a part of health care reform by effectively taxing the most destructive bullets out of existence.

Last night, Councilman Stukes said his measure, though nonbinding, was an attempt "to look for every avenue possible."

Even before the council session began, members were expressing shock at the death of Tauris, who was hit by a stray bullet while playing football Thursday near his home in the 1700 block of E. Oliver St. The day before, 10-year-old Tia was hit by a stray bullet while sitting with her grandmother on a bus stop bench outside Walbrook Junction Shopping Center.

"I don't want to see another child die," said Councilwoman Agnes Welch, a 4th District Democrat who wrote a note to the mayor expressing concern over the violence.

The shootings prompted Mr. Bell to introduce his measure, although he still has to work out specifics of the "weapons information incentive program," including the amount of the reward.

After the meeting, he also repeated a suggestion he made several years ago to use hand-held metal detectors to check for weapons at schools.

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