The DC Police Department set aside $150,000 last year to run two gun buy-backs where citizens could cash in on their pieces ($100 for assault rifles and semi-automatic pistols, $50 for revolvers, $10 for pellet guns) no questions asked. Gun amnesties are long-trusted crowd-pleasers, and the most recent pair-held in December-coincided nicely with news of the city’s rising murder rate. But criminologists say their effectiveness in stopping crime is pretty much a myth.

The problem is, people don’t turn in the kinds of guns that get used in crimes. When I visited the collection station at Shiloh Baptist Church a few weeks ago, they had a cardboard box filled with a lot of junk: pellet guns, rusty stuff, shotguns covered in duct tape. There were a few random gems: a Browning Hi-Power, a WWII-looking Luger, a sawed-off with a homemade pistol grip (Omar style). Police commander Larry McCoy told me the gun-sellers were about half female. Add to that some early spring-cleaning and I start to think the police were handing out spending money for last-year’s junk and a bunch of relics left by grandfathers or husbands. I wonder what would happen if you traced where those bucks got spent.

What else costs $150,000? Hmm, I dunno. Maybe we could open up a few more shelter beds for the mentally ill people freezing their tales off this winter. From personal experience, these folks have become increasingly bellicose in their shivery misery and I’m pretty sure they cause more crime and violence than a sawed-off from Prohibition.

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