Mayor Muriel Bowser and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier displayed more than 60 illegal guns recently seized by the MPD at a press conference Sept. 8 to highlight the Bowser administration’s commitment to reducing the number of illegal guns bought and sold in the city.
The women discussed the MPD’s GunStat program, which was developed in 2008 to monitor citizens in Washington, D.C. with violent criminal records. The program aims to closely observe these people, ensuring they remain in direct contact with law enforcement and parole agencies. This program is intended to decrease the District’s homicide rate, which currently, at 109, is already higher than 2014’s total of 105 murders.
During the press conference, both Lanier and Bowser stressed the importance of addressing the root causes of the illegal firearms issue, rather than looking at one particular part of the system.
“Instead of seeing where else there’s blame, we’re looking to see where there are gaps in the system,” Lanier said at the conference.
Bowser agreed and evaded reporters’ questions that asked her to assign blame.
“It does no one any good to point fingers,” Bowser added.
Additionally, Bowser and Lanier announced increased rewards for tips leading to the seizure of illegal firearms in August. While the MPD previously offered $1,000 for all tips about illegal guns, changes increased the reward to $2,500 for information leading to an arrest and seizure of an illegal firearm and $10,000 for a tip resulting in an arrest and conviction in a shooting. Anonymous tips can also be submitted.
Georgetown University Police Department Chief Jay Gruber said the program is a positive step toward reducing violence in the D.C. area.
“Any program such as GunStat that reduces gun violence is a good thing and a step in the right direction,” Gruber wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The impact to the Georgetown community is an overall safer Washington, D.C.”
Georgetown Against Gun Violence President Emma Iannini (SFS ’16) praised Bowser’s efforts and highlighted the need to look at firearms regulations not only in D.C., but in other states as well.
“I applaud the work of Mayor Bowser and local law enforcement for trying to get as many illegal guns and dangerous military-style weapons out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,” Iannini said. “However, I think they have a very difficult problem on their hands, a problem whose roots are outside of their ability to control.”
Current District policy includes universal background checks and restrictions on military-style weapons. However, people can still purchase these guns in neighboring states, such as Virginia and Maryland, without these background checks.
“It’s important to realize that the homicide rate and amounts of illegal guns that are being trafficked and eventually confiscated by the police here in Washington is really an issue that originates outside of D.C.,” Iannini said. “As citizens of Washington, we need to put pressure on elected officials in places like Maryland and places like Virginia to acknowledge the responsibility for the violence.”
Some of the most notable opposition to Bowser and Lanier’s tighter gun control has come from the
American Civil Liberties Union in D.C. The group has raised concerns that the GunStat Program violates the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures.”
According to former ACLU director Johnny Barnes, the ACLU may file a lawsuit against the city for this violation. Barnes also expressed dissatisfaction over GunStat’s close monitoring of people with violent criminal records.
“They’ve paid their debt to society,” Barnes said to the D.C. bureau of ABC News. “They’ve served their time. Now you want to say, ‘Let’s watch them every day.’ That’s wrong.”
Hoya Staff Writer Sarah Smith contributed reporting.
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