Gun epidemic plagues Bayview District

July 29, 2011 6:51:36 PM PDT
San Francisco's police chief wants to remind people that the city is offering rewards to get guns off the streets. His reminder follows the recent recovery of a missing gun from a shootout in the Bayview District. That neighborhood has a shockingly high number of guns that are seized.

"An epidemic of guns," that's what one savvy streetwise activist in the Bayview calls it. Police say they confiscate lots of them, and that, they say, includes the gun Kenneth Harding was carrying when he accidentally shot himself.

Investigators say someone stole Harding's missing gun from the crime scene two weeks ago. If it wasn't found, the gun would have ended up as one of many circulating in the Bayview.

"In the last 64 days, we have confiscated 26 firearms; 25 of those with arrests, and 20 of them are actually automatic weapons." said Capt. Paul Chignell with the Bayview Police Station. "Most of these individuals who are carrying firearms are on probation or parole or have lengthy criminal records."

Police find guns all over the city, but roughly 30 percent of those seized come from the Bayview.

"We've had a lot of gang activity over the years, that's a major reason, the narcotics dealing that occurs in this district -- guns and narcotics go hand in hand," said Chignell.

"You can get a 9mm brand new, probably about $400 or $500," said Shawn Richard who heads Brothers Against Guns. He says firearms are an epidemic here. "Now you're getting young men at the age of 13 and 14 getting hold of guns. Young men between the ages of 13 and 14 are doing the homicides and doing the shootings."

Video shows a gang member taking an assault gun from its secret hiding place. They call it "a community gun" -- a firearm shared by members of the gang. Police say they seize many community guns.

"They use the weapon in the commission of a crime and then they put it back in that secret location," said Chignell.

The city is offering rewards to get guns off the streets. Chief Greg Suhr says no questions asked.

"The whereabouts of any guns, we're happy to take that gun," said Suhr. "If it doesn't come with an arrest that's fine, too."

Police are giving a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of someone with a gun and $500 for an assault weapon, even without an arrest.


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