Westminster wants guns for Beanies Buyback: Since these Babies are so popular, program organizers hope people will part with their firearms to get one.

September 18, 1998|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Westminster, a quaint county seat that has had just one shooting this year, is planning a small-town version of a big-city gun buyback.

The offer: Beanie Babies.

Such events are usually held in cities like Baltimore, which has 1,200 to 1,400 shootings annually, but police believe it will work in Carroll County.

"We've had several calls from people looking to turn in weapons," said Cpl. Michael Bible of the Westminster Police Department. "Our hope is that we can get guns off the streets, and keep them out of the reach of children."

Baltimore efforts have exchanged money for guns, and other cities have had toys-for-guns exchanges. But neither Bible nor Sydney M. Shure, the organizer of Westminster's weapons exchange, was aware of any area program offering just Beanies.

About 150 different polystyrene-filled dolls have been created by Ty Inc. since 1993. Many are worth far more than their suggested retail value of $5 to $6. Dolls that are rare are worth more than others.

Shure, who owns "ideas etc. toys etc. ltd," will offer several Beanies -- including Erin, Glory and Princess bears -- in exchange for guns tomorrow. Those bears commemorate St. Patrick's Day, the Fourth of July and Princess Diana, respectively. Erin is worth up to $200, Glory is valued at $15 to $125, and Princess can fetch as much as $275.

"Beanies are the hottest item on the market right now," said Shure, 64. "That's why I think this will work."

Westminster's buyback will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at her store in the Route 140 Village Shopping Center. It is being co-sponsored by Jeanette Gibby, owner of Gibby's Gifts & Miniatures, which operates out of Shure's store.

"My father owned a pharmacy for many years in Baltimore and was held up at gunpoint no less than eight times. If this gets just one gun off the streets, I'll consider it a success," Shure said. "I just want to give back to the community."

Shure said she decided to hold a Beanies-for-guns exchange after thieves started stealing the stuffed animals from local toy and craft stores.

A Reisterstown woman was arrested in connection with the June 17 theft of 26 Beanies and 10 Harley Davidson stuffed animals from Shure's shop.

Westminster police arrested Lisa Marie Warnick, 34, later that month and charged her with theft. She was being held yesterday at Carroll County Detention Center in lieu of $5,000 bail. Police are searching for a second suspect in that case, a 43-year-old Westminster man.

Police said Warnick also is charged with failure to appear in court on July 29, 1989, after her arrest on a charge of possession of a controlled dangerous substance.

A firearms instructor will be at the buyback site tomorrow to handle the exchange. A special area will be roped off, where anyone wishing to turn in a weapon can do so.

Police will accept the guns "no questions asked," Bible said. The policy ensures a better turnout, police said, so that anyone can turn in a sawed-off shotgun or 9 mm semiautomatic pistol and leave without a word.

All guns will be subject to a police check, and an investigation FTC will follow if the weapon turns out to be stolen, Bible said.

Bible said he would like people to unload their guns, place them in the trunk of their cars and remove them only in the designated area.

"We don't want anyone walking across the parking lot with a weapon in hand," Bible said.

Pub Date: 9/18/98

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