Chicago residents turn in weapons for money

May 9, 2010 7:12:27 AM PDT
Saturday was 'gun turn-in' day in Chicago. For the seventh time, the city offered pre-paid Mastercards worth up to $100 for people who parted with a gun. Nearly two dozen churches and other facilities opened their doors to collect about 4,000 weapon, no questions asked. It it was all part of the city's effort to get guns off the streets and stop the violence.

Mayor Daley defends the program, despite questions about how effective it is in stopping the bloodshed on Chicago's streets.

At 22 locations across the city, people turned in guns by the hundreds Saturday-- some for cash, and others, for a measure of comfort.

"It was just a weapon I've had for years as a protection. It was just time to get rid of it," Derrick Rhea told ABC7 Chicago.

"I have a daughter. I don't want her to run across the gun and think it's ok. That's basically what it was," said William Burns, who also turned in a gun.

"My father died in January 2009. I cleaned out the house and found six guns. I wanted to bring them in and get some money for them," Karen Miller said.

Approximately, 82 percent of murders in Chicago are committed with a gun. It's why Mayor Daley is so anxious to get people to hand them in.

"The reason we ask people to turn in a gun is because if you have a gun in the home, someone comes home, high on drugs or alcohol or whatever it is, something happens-- an argument, someone grabs a gun, a child grabs a gun. He had an argument outside, runs inside, grabs a gun, child accidentally grabs a gun, accidentally goes off," Daley said.

For four years, the city of Chicago has used private money to offer financial incentives for people to give up their guns. The privately raised money goes toward cash cards. People received $100 for an assault weapon, $75 for a handgun and 10 for a BB gun, air gun or replica gun.

Chicago police say they collected roughly 4,000 guns Saturday, more than twice the number collected last year, which was 1,900.

Critics, however, point out many of the guns turned in are vintage weapons, not the ones being toted by gang bangers and used by them to kill on a whim. And while some of the guns turned in were antiques -- one even had a bayonette attached-- police insist the turn-in program saves lives.

"These are definitely weapons used by various gang bangers on the street, various handguns and assault weapons," said Chicago Police Chief Tina Skahil.

"Each one of these weapons doesn't represent an offender, but they represent an incident that can kill people," Chicago Police Dept. Supt. Jody Weis said.

For those touched by violence, taking even one weapon off the street is priceless.

"My daughter was shot with an assault rifle. They sprayed 14 bullets into the restaurant," an unidentified woman said to a group assembled. "Not only did that person with a gun take away my baby's dream, it took away my dream, my life and my family's life."

The gun turn-in program ended at 4 p.m. Saturday. However, Chicago police say, if anyone has a gun he or she wants to get rid of, it can be turned in any day of the year at a local police station or by calling 311.

Approximately 23,000 guns have been over the four years since the program's start, an amazing number, until you consider how many guns are still on the streets.


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