Wednesday, December 17, 2008

If It Saves One Life, It’s Worth It

997 guns in 8 hours. Wow! This past Saturday, the Department held its’ second consecutive Gun Buy Back. If we were to base the event’s success solely on the number of guns turned in, consider this: we almost doubled last year’s total of 536 guns.

This event was paid for with money seized as a result of criminal activity. The venue, The Omega Center, let us in for free. KPLR-TV co-sponsored the event, as did Clear Channel Radio and 100.3 The Beat. In other words, this event didn’t cost taxpayers anything.

An elderly man walked in about 30 minutes before the gun buy back ended. When he was handed his cash, he said with a smile, “I sure do need this”, waving the $50 bill. “And I’m glad to get rid of this,” he said, pointing back towards the gun. “You don’t know what will happen if things get heated and that’s around.” In many instances, police officers DO know what will happen. We’ve seen it all too often. Someone is killed over something so inconsequential that it’s hard to believe. Critics say that gun buy back’s don’t work. Studies show that few gun buy backs can ever be directly credited for decreases in crime or in some cases, crime goes up even in the wake of a gun buy back. I can’t say for sure what impact gun buy backs have on a community, but I can say this. There are now 997 guns that from this day forward cannot be used in any future crimes. Over the next few days, the Department will melt most of those weapons, destroying all but those that may have been reported stolen or used in a previous crime. What if some of the guns that have been used in crimes this year, had been turned in at last year’s gun buy back? How many fewer victims might there be?

I’m not saying that putting an end to violent crime is as simple as getting guns off the street. There are bigger social, economic and employment issues that have to be tackled. Still, if turning in those guns saves even one person’s life, it’s worth it.
I want to commend every person who turned in a weapon. I also want to make a special mention of the Metropolitan Police Department employees who spent the entire day at the event. Many of them were not scheduled to work. They voluntarily gave their time because they love this community and they truly want to do everything they can to make it a better place. This is the kind of commitment that doesn’t make the news, but it doesn’t go unnoticed by me and I’m sure by most of you. Their dedication and passion throughout the planning and execution of this event makes me proud and it makes the community that much better.