Organizers calling gun turn-in a success

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Thousands of guns were turned in Saturday as part a citywide effort to stop the increasing violence in Chicago.

Nearly two dozen churches and religious centers opened their doors to collect the weapons no questioned asked.

Community leaders and lawmakers joined families of gun violence victims, asking people to turn in weapons in an effort to stop the violence that has claimed so many lives. Organizers set up at 23 locations around the city to receive the firearms. By most measures, the effort was a success.

The gun turn-in ended at about 4 p.m. Saturday. Police report that 6700 guns were collected, making Saturday's gun turn-in the most successful one ever.

" Seven hundred eighty-six total were turned in here," Fr. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina's said Sunday. "[That makes it] the largest not only anywhere here in the city, but we're told by the city the largest than any turn in spot in America happened here yesterday."

The program was the same as it was last year: anyone could turn in a gun with no names and no questions asked. In exchange, those turning in guns got a prepaid $100 Mastercard. Turnout was so good that some places ran out of debit cards and had to hand out rain checks instead.

"We expect that this will surpass each one of the previous two [years], and maybe even both of the previous two combined," said Dep. Sup. Dana Starks of the Chicago Police Department Saturday.

Churches citywide took part in the exchange. At St. Sabina's, there were close to 100 people in line even before doors opened.

"They're [guns] out of the house house. That way the kids can't get at them. It's not like you're going to have this stuff to tempt them. They're better off out of sight, out of mind," said a turn-in participant who identified himself Mitch.

"That's what it is, everybody saying: 'I'm going to remove my gun.' This is what every individual can do to contribute to ending the violence and prevent other violence from happening," said Pfleger on Saturday.

Also Saturday, Reverend Jesse Jackson dedicated his weekly radio and television broadcasts to the turn-in.

"We want to work more on futures than funerals," Jackson said.

Standing alongside the Jackson were Clara Allen and Richard Willis. Their daughter, 21-year-old Domonique Ryan was gunned by two men at 104th and Morgan Friday as she and some friends headed out to a nearby restaurant.

"My daughter had dreams. Her dream was to be a lawyer. Those guys took her dream away. It is not right. They have no right to take her life. Only God does," said Clara Allen.

All collected guns were brought to the Homan Square police facility. They will be tested to see if they were used in past crimes and destroyed.

Turn-in participants who ended up with a gift certificate instead of a debit card will be able to exchange them for debit cards next Saturday at all the same churches that were participating Saturday.

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