Monday, July 13, 2009

Illicit gun sales hit new high

Police blame fear, new laws, social trends for growth By Nicole Young • THE TENNESSEAN • July 13, 2009 The reasons include everything from a fear that President Barack Obama's new administration will crack down on gun sales, to recent legislative action opening more public places to carry-permit holders, to something more elusive in media culture that gives gun ownership a certain cachet. This isn't a welcome development for Metro police. In a week that has seen the tragic murder-suicide involving Steve McNair, the shooting death of a 12-year-old Nashville girl and reports of other gun deaths in the area, East Precinct Lt. Danny Driskell says he worries because illegal gun sales are at an all-time high in the city. "We usually find between four and nine guns each week," Driskell said. "Anytime we get over 12 guns, that's a lot." About a month ago, the East Precinct recorded a record number of gun seizures. Fifteen were taken off the streets during the week of June 12. Driskell said his officers are finding guns during routine traffic stops, home visits and on people just out walking the streets. In the past, the weapons were often found alongside drugs or with known gang members, but not anymore, he said. 1,041 guns confiscated In Davidson County, Metro police have seen more than an 8 percent increase in gun seizures over last year. In 2008, 1,041 guns were seized between Jan. 1 and June 27. During the same period in 2009, the number jumped to 1,129. The biggest increases by precinct have occurred in Central, West and East. In 2008, the Central Precinct recorded 57 guns seized from January to June. In 2009, during the same time period, 92 were taken. The West Precinct went from 103 guns seized during the first half of 2008 to 124 over the same span in 2009. The East Precinct went from 171 in 2008 to 191 in 2009. Driskell said he's seeing an interest in guns from many different groups. "There's a segment of the population that is nonviolent, and there's another segment that's immersed in culture," Driskell said. "There is a tremendous talk about violence in our movies, in music, in video games, even on TV. You listen to two rap songs, and I guarantee you that you'll hear something along the lines of, 'I got the gun and I shot the guy,' or something to that effect." Recently, the Metro Police Department as a whole stepped up its efforts in getting guns off the streets. Churches involved Last week, for example, officers teamed up with area churches for a gun drive. In two days, 84 guns were turned in. The pastors from Corinthian Baptist Church, Watson Grove Baptist Church, Galilee Missionary Baptist Church and Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church shared stories of some people arriving in tears to trade in their guns. The Rev. Enoch Fuzz, pastor of Corinthian Baptist, said he collected four sawed-off shotguns in one night. A man brought a gun that fell from his stepson's pants. He feared for the kids living in the home. A grandmother turned in a gun that she saw her grandson playing with. "These guns were taken out of our community. We don't have to worry about no one using them in a negative way," said the Rev. Michael Joyner, pastor of Greater Faith Missionary Baptist. "And it's just a blessing to look and see what has taken place in our community. And we're not going to stop." Kristin Mumford, spokeswoman for Metro police, said the guns are in the process of being checked for involvement in any crimes. After that, they will be destroyed. So far, none of the weapons has come back as a match in any case. On the streets, a gun sells anywhere from $100 to $200, making it cheaper and faster to purchase the weapon illegally than to visit a gun shop, Driskell said.

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