Towson company turns in 55 guns

November 24, 1994|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Sun Staff Writer

For five years, the .38-caliber Dan Wesson Arms revolvers sat unused in a locked vault -- leftovers from an armed security guard service that Eugene R. Hartman's company used to provide.

Yesterday, Mr. Hartman, 56, president of Echelon Service Co. in Towson, took 55 handguns to the Towson police precinct and turned them over in exchange for a teddy bear -- and the peace of mind that those guns won't wind up in the hands of a criminal.

"Individuals have wanted to buy them," said Mr. Hartman, whose firm now provides architectural and engineering services for companies. "I could have sold them. I thought, 'Gee, we have enough guns on the street. I'd rather see these guns get melted down.' "

That's exactly what will happen to them, said Officers Fred J. Carter Jr. and John S. Reginaldi of the Towson Precinct. They will be taken to the Bethlehem Steel Corp. plant at Sparrows Point and destroyed.

But first, the officers recorded each handgun's serial number and ran it through a computer system to check if any of them had been used in a crime. "They came back negative," said Officer Carter. "They're clean."

Mr. Hartman's donation was unusual both in quantity and quality. His 55 guns in one day compares to 136 previously turned in for the rest of 1994, said Sgt. David A. Jagodzinkski, supervisor of the Evidence Management Unit.

It is also unusual for anyone to turn in high-quality guns, said Officer Carter, who noted that people usually come in with old, dirty and inoperable weapons.

For instance, a recent gun turn-in at Greater Baltimore Medical Center -- in which each person got a teddy bear -- yielded a lot of "old beat-up shotguns and BB guns," he said.

One man even brought in a handgun he had bought for self-protection-- not knowing that it was a starter pistol and the barrel was sealed. "It's a good thing he never tried to fire a real bullet in that," Officer Carter said. "It would have blown up."

Sgt. Jay T. Gribbin had trouble opening the cylinder on one gun because the weapons hadn't been cleaned or oiled in years, but he said they quickly could be made operable.

"It's incidental to us what shape the gun's in," said Sergeant Gribbin.

Echelon Service Co. provided armed security guards for various federal agencies from 1981 to 1989, when he discontinued that part of the business, said Mr. Hartman.

Since 1989, the handguns had remained in a locked vault.

Mr. Hartman said he is not against gun ownership. "I'm not an anti-gun person," he said. "I'm a gun advocate-type person."

And he said he could have sold the weapons to a gun dealer, or individuals, and probably gotten $75 to $100 a gun -- for a total of $4,125 to $5,500.

But two thoughts troubled him. One was that if someone bought one of his handguns from a gun shop and didn't take safety precautions -- such as locking the gun in a vault or locking it with a trigger lock -- that a child could have been hurt accidentally.

The other troubling thought was that if someone purchased one of the guns for home protection -- and later get burglarized -- it would end up in the hands of a criminal.

"I'd much rather see the guns destroyed," Mr. Hartman said.

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