Saturday, August 18, 2007

No questions asked.......

They sat outside the Citrus Bowl in Orlando FL, on Friday, August 17 2007, as they have periodically over the past eight years. Some were busy handing out gift certificates and sneakers while others were checking the state and federal lists.

"Anytime we can sit out here and have people bring us guns it's good for the community," stated sheriff's Cmdr Al Rollins.

Residents turned in 250 guns to the deputies at the Pine Castle Woman's Center on South Orange St and to the Orlando police officers outside the Citrus Bowl. Each of the guns came with a story, many of the stories would never be known, unless it was discovered to be listed as stolen or in later test firings, be found to have been used in a crime. All of the guns were destined to never be able to reach criminal's hands after they were torched and melted down.

What turned out to be the most successful gun exchange saw ancient guns, zip guns, shotguns and assault riflles start to arrive at 7 am. Four of the guns turned were classified as "hot" as they had their serial numbers filed off. One gun that was exchanged by an older biker was described as a portable crime scene. He checked to make sure there were no questions asked and after being told that absolutely, no questions......he returned with the gun in a plastic bag. The homemade, 40-shot assault pistol, which had been made from a cut down rifle and possessed a illegally short barrel, would have carried a mandatory 5-year minimum sentence in a federal prison.

"That would scare the pants off you." commented Rollins as the biker walked away with a $50 gift certificate.

Many of the guns turned in could not be traced, as they had been manufactured before 1968 when serial numbers became mandatory. A 1903, .32-caliber Colt pistol in pristine condition, was turned in and a knowledgable officer quickly checked the internet to find it's value at $1,400. There were a number of obvious "crime guns" as well, including .45-caliber pistols, late-model 9mms and sawed off shotguns, many similar to what has been used in the more than 100 murders in Orange County last year.

Shortly before noon, one man turned in three rifles, dropped them off saying he didn't want anything in exchange and left. The three military-style target rifles had an estimated value of more than $3,000. While holding a .308-caliber M1A Springfield rifle, estimated to be worth $1,500, Officer Kevin Williams, an assistant rangemaster commented that he would have loved to be able to own it or at least have a father that would have given it to him.

At a little before 6 pm though, an Ococee man turned in the eye-opener of the day. He stated that he didn't know what to do with a weapon he said he had found when taking a shed apart. He had tried taking it to three dumps before and they had told him to get lost. The man exchanged a 4 foot-long, surface-to-air missile launcher for a pair of size 3 Reebok sneakers for his daughter and drove off.

Orlando's program and many others like it nationwide are designed to allow people to dispose of unwanted guns, safely. Last year's "Kicks for Guns" sneaker exchange in Orlando brought in 113 firearms and 20 BB pistols and toys guns that had been modified to look like real weapons. At 1 pm Friday, Rollins had stated that this year's event, held with the assistance of Clear Channel radio stations and local media, was a huge success with 200 guns being exchanged already.

Programs like this do take a number of guns off the street and out of closets where they can be used in crimes or lead to personal harm.......... a missle launcher though, designed to take a jet out of the air is indeed an uncomfortable thought. If there is one turned in, how many more are out there in sheds and basements?

Special thanks to Red Huber, Orlando Sentinal for the photo of Orlando Police Sgt Barbara Jones.

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