Victim's husband to spend $20,000 buying back guns Bolton Hill teacher reacts to gunman who robbed pregnant wife

February 03, 1997|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Few events in life are more frightening, and enraging, than having a criminal point a gun at your pregnant wife and rob her a few steps from your front door.

So David Calhoun, an art teacher by craft and citizen by commitment, is putting his money where his mouth is.

On Saturday, Calhoun said yesterday, he will be escorted by city police to his bank and withdraw $20,000 from his savings account. He'll then travel with police officers to Pennsylvania Avenue, where he hopes to remove hundreds of handguns from the streets as part of Baltimore's gun buyback program.

"Look, I'm not fabulously wealthy, we were looking to vacation in Europe with my inheritance after the baby was born in July," Calhoun said yesterday in his Bolton Hill home. "But I felt compelled to step up and do this. Far too many of us in society complain but few act."

More than 1,000 working handguns were purchased by city police Saturday at two locations -- $100 for each weapon, no questions asked.

Surprised city officials had to close down the two buyback locations -- in the 1900 block of Pennsylvania Ave. and 600 block of N. Caroline St. -- early because they ran out of money.

The program will continue each Saturday through February with the stations opened from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said $50 would be traded for handguns in future weeks because of the unanticipated response and depletion of funds, although he said he would seek help from the private sector to return to the $100 price. Calhoun plans to buy 400 guns at $50 apiece.

While critics say and most officials admit buyback programs won't rid the criminal culture of its violent tools to commit crime, lives might be saved by eliminating weapons from homes and from the hands of younger residents.

"A lot of people told me I'm crazy, that people in the buyback program will turn around and buy more guns or drugs," said Calhoun, who teaches at Roland Park Country School.

"But my hope is that some uncle, some grandparent, a friend, will look around the house, find a gun laying around and come get some money for it, get the gun out of the home," Calhoun said. "They can celebrate with a fabulous dinner with their family or friends.

"I know the hard-core criminals won't do this, but it's a start."

Like most victims of violent crime, Calhoun and his wife remain fearful two weeks after her robbery. They've changed the locks on their home and car and worry the gunman might pay another visit to the neighborhood.

Mrs. Calhoun requested her first name not be published, along with the couple's address. She works as a physician's assistant at a local hospital, but asked that the institution remain unidentified.

The crime occurred after she left work at 3 a.m. Jan. 22. Mrs. Calhoun -- four months pregnant -- was parking her car near her home when she heard footsteps.

A man put a gun to her body and said: "Give me your money or I am going to kill you," she said.

Avoiding eye contact, she explained she had no cash, not even a wallet, only a few cents in change. She unloaded the contents of her purse on the hood of her car and the thief grabbed 75 cents, the keys to her house and car, and a cellular telephone.

Afraid he might return and harm or kidnap her in the car, she climbed a 6-foot high fence and made it to her backyard. Using an old table leg, she tried to break a window to get into her house. That awakened her husband and the family dog, Tango.

"I saw her and she was as white as a ghost, just so scared," Calhoun said. "We called 911 and the cop came here in what seemed like seconds. He was empathetic, nice. He just looked at me and said, 'Some days I just hate my job.' "

Calhoun contacted City Hall and met with Schmoke early last week to discuss helping the buyback program, according to Clinton R. Coleman, the mayor's spokesman.

Unsure how the buyback would go, the mayor said he wanted to start it before accepting Calhoun's money. But after the flood of weapons Saturday drained the program's funds, Schmoke instructed his aides to call the teacher.

"Reducing violence is something that's going to occur when all of us get involved; it can't be left just to the police," Schmoke said last night in a statement issued through his spokesman. The mayor's spokesman said he planned to seek other donations this week from business leaders.

For Calhoun, violence and crime were once distant issues.

He grew up in southern Illinois, where there was only "apple pie, basketball and guns. It was a place where everybody had gun racks in their trucks. I did target shooting. I'm not an anti-gun person but some of these instruments of destruction have placed entire cities in fear.

"I can't live in fear because Bolton Hill is a great place. We eat dinner every night at the homes of our neighbors, there are marriage ceremonies in our alley. This is still a terrific neighborhood. This hasn't made us want to leave."

Bolton Hill has a private security firm patrolling the neighborhood. And residents hold regular meetings on crime-fighting techniques such as block watch programs and video monitoring.

Despite the increased security measures, he said, some of their friends in the neighborhood have been robbed at gunpoint within the last year.

"Handguns are vile to me," he said.

If his plan is successful next Saturday, he said he would like to take all the weapons he purchases, melt them, and form a sculpture.

"I'd like to do something figurative, like a mother holding her child shot dead by a handgun," Calhoun said.

Pub Date: 2/03/97

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