City collects more than 4,000 weapons

May 10, 2010
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They came stuffed in socks, heaped into plastic bags and recycle bins, wrapped together with heavy tape, and sheathed in cloth cases. They came from vaults and closets and other places in the home.

But by the end of the day Saturday, they all were headed to the same place – to be checked and likely destroyed.

More than 4,000 handguns, rifles, shotguns, semi-automatic weapons, replica and BB guns were turned in at 22 sites across the city as part of the sixth annual “Don’t Kill a Dream, Save a Life” sponsored by the Chicago Police Department.

The number was twice what was collected last year, said Lt. Maureen Biggane. Information was not available on how many weapons were handed in at the District 15 site at Destiny Worship Center on West Chicago Avenue.

Owners received pre-paid MasterCards valued at up to $100 depending on the type of weapon turned in, and there were no questions asked.

Some gun owners clearly wanted to just get rid of what they had been storing for years.

One owner who would not give his name carted in 100 weapons – rusted out handguns, single-shot pistols, single-barrel shotguns and rifles – that he had been collecting over the years. He said he built a vault for them, but there wasn’t enough room to keep them there.

There were some there clearly distressed at the uptick in violence and its effect on children.

Keith Shorter, a security guard at a local hospital, learned to appreciate guns from the two generations of family in the US Army. He turned in a .22 semi-automatic handgun to keep weapons like these off the street.

“If we can keep one gun off the street, we can help save three lives,” he said. It’s a trickle-down thing, he added as gun violence affects not just the people involved in the crime but the families as well.

Willie Williams Jr., who was there to support the police, knows all too well the impact that gun violence can have on a family. In the early morning hours of April 1, 2006, his son Willie III was shot in the head while attempting to break up a fight outside of a Ford City Mall movie theater. The 17-year-old Williams III, a former Jesse White Tumbler, died later that day. Eddie Fenton has been arrested and charged with Williams’ murder.

The death devastated Williams, and since then, he’s worked with community groups and individuals to try to stem the gun violence. He didn’t pick up a gun before and especially would not pick up one now.

“Kids should think before they act,” he said. “No one should ever see what I’ve seen.”

Each weapon collected Saturday will be inventoried. Some will go through forensics testing and run through the National Crime Information Center. Ultimately, weapons will be destroyed, as appropriate.

Citizens can still turn in guns at the District 15 headquarters, 5701 W. Madison St. For more information, call 311 or visit the Web site.

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