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Law-abiding citizens turn in firearms to keep them out of lawbreakers' hands

Commercial Appeal | July 16, 2006
By Lindsay Melvin

Homeowners once looking for protection, ex-hunters and wary parents were among those who pulled up to The Pyramid Saturday to unload their rifles, semiautomatics, shotguns and revolvers.

The gun turn-in program that ran throughout the day was held by the Memphis Police Department in cooperation with WMC TV-5 and Soul Classics 103.5.

Not intended to round up the firearms of lawbreakers, the event was aimed at law-abiding citizens who have the power to stop their own guns from falling into violent hands, said Sgt. Vince Higgins, spokesman for Memphis police.

"Ninety percent of the guns we get from criminals are stolen in burglaries," said Higgins, who added that most of those guns are sold on the street.

"A criminal is not walking around with a gun that's registered to him; it's a gun he's obtained illegally," he said.

The recent shootings that have taken the lives of local children, including 12-year-old Melissa Robertson, who was shot in the head at a Binghamton playground, spurred the gun-collecting campaign.

Over the years, there have been several other gun turn-in programs in Memphis. They've resulted in collections that have ranged anywhere from 22 to more than 1,000 guns. In the first hour of Saturday's collection, police had already cataloged 18 guns.

"If we get one gun that's one less gun possibly used in a crime," said Higgins.

In the week leading up to the gun turn-in, the sergeant said he received dozens of calls inquiring how to dispose of unwanted firearms left to them by deceased relatives.

"When we're dead and gone, nobody has to worry about what to do with them," said Edith Taylor, 64, of her husband's three-gun collection.

She beamed as a specialist with the Firearms Training Unit inspected her husband's rifle chamber over a bucket lined with bullet-proof vests -- a precaution in case one goes off.

"I've been after him for 40 years to get rid of it," said Taylor, who was relieved to finally get the guns out of her Cordova home.

"We've talked about selling them but then where do they end up? Here I know they'll be destroyed," she said.

All of the guns were cataloged and eventually will be melted down, said Higgins.

The first hundred people to turn in a gun received a $100 gift card to the New York Suit Exchange. Other vouchers to local merchants were also handed out.



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