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Police and fire

Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne police officers, from left, Tyree Carr, James King, Debi Joyner and Garry Hamilton lay out the haul Saturday.

26 guns collected at Amnesty Day

No questions asked, just ‘drop and go’

Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Police display some of the pistols, rifles, shotguns and ammunition collected Saturday in the Gun Amnesty Day at the Urban League

– They brought revolvers, .22-caliber and .38-caliber. They brought semiautomatics. They brought 12-gauge, 16-gauge and 20-gauge shotguns, some with barrels and stocks chopped off.

In all, 26 guns were dropped off Saturday during what Fort Wayne police called Gun Amnesty Day, a no-questions-asked event where residents could bring in unwanted weapons.

The process was simple. Police would clear the chamber of the gun for safety reasons and then record the make, model and serial number. After that, the person who turned in the gun was free to leave.

“Drop and go,” Detective Tim Russell said. “We don’t care who brought it.”

Russell said the city’s rash of homicides this year prompted police and residents to host Gun Amnesty Day. The goal was to seize guns that might end up in the hands of children or burglars.

“We basically were trying to get any gun that’s, like, laying around the house for no apparent reason, that serves no purpose other than to collect dust,” officer James King said.

It was mostly elderly and middle-aged people who brought guns to the collection site in the parking lot of the Fort Wayne Urban League, near Hanna Street and East Creighton Avenue. The police, along with the NAACP, the Urban League and the Guardians of Police, a watchdog group of officers and residents, sponsored the event.

Fort Wayne’s chapter of the Guardians of Police has been dormant for a while, Russell said, but the group, now with new members, hopes to become more involved in the community. A second Gun Amnesty Day is planned, but a date has not been set, said King, another Guardians of Police member.

In the meantime, residents looking to dispose of guns can contact police. “They can call anytime,” Russell said.

The guns collected Saturday will be held in the police department’s evidence room until they are destroyed courtesy of Steel Dynamics, a local steelmaker. But before that happens, police will check to see if the guns were stolen or used in a crime, King said.

In addition to guns, people brought in several cartons of ammunition. Sgt. Greg Stier of the bomb squad came to retrieve the ammo that he said would eventually be melted down and sold for scrap.

Stier recalled that the last time police held a gun-collection day, several years ago, the haul of weaponry was more unusual.

“A lady brought in grocery bags full of black powder,” he said. “Her husband had a cannon and did Civil War re-enactment.”

As Saturday’s event was wrapping up at 4 p.m., a man came trotting across the parking lot with a purple Crown Royal bag that held three pistols someone had asked him to drop off. Those three guns raised the total to 26, a number that pleased King.

“None of the guns are going back on the street,” he said.