West Baltimore Church Holds Gun Buyback

West Baltimore Church Holds Gun Buyback

A West Baltimore church held the latest in a series of gun buybacks today.  St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church on N. Gilmore St. collected about forty weapons by noon today.  In East Baltimore, St. Wenceslaus Church on Ashland Ave. held a buyback at the same time.  

The programs are funded by the Catholic Review newspaper, and offer $100 for working automatic and semi-automatic guns and assault rifles, and $50 for all other working guns.  Police officers were on hand to collect the weapons, saying aside from the type of gun and its price, no record is kept and no questions are asked of the seller.  
Father Damien Nalepa, St. Gregory’s pastor, says that aside from a few years, the buyback has been held since the mid 1990’s.  250 guns have been recovered in the last two and a half years by the church.  

With a congregation of about four hundred, the church offers a number of services to area residents.  A food pantry, which Nalepa says is in dire need of funding, draws about three dozen families twice a week.   The church also combats a massive drug use problem in the area, holding about sixteen Narcotics Anonymous meetings a week.  Nalepa says the meetings draw more than 1000 recovering users a week.

The effectiveness of gun buyback programs is a contentious topic.  The Baltimore Police Department held its first buyback in 1974, collecting more than 13 thousand guns.  There have been a number of programs since then, sponsored by the Baltimore Housing Authority, the police department, churches, and occasionally private individuals.  A buyback in West Baltimore once recovered 750 guns in one day, and another in June of 2005 recovered hundreds of guns and high-powered assault weapons.

Critics say many of the guns are not working ones, and would not likely be used in criminal activities anyway.  Nalepa acknowledges this, saying many are from “families turning in guns because they have children and want them out of the way,” and are not meant for criminal uses.  Although a number of rifles and powerful weapons were recovered, Nalepa calls the program a “small step to get guns off the street”.  

Three weeks ago an 11 year old shot and killed a 15 year old as they played with a gun collection in a Cherry Hill home.  According to a July 2nd Citistat report by the Baltimore Police Department, 78 of the 103 homicides in Baltimore this year were due to shootings.  More than 1260 gun-related crimes -- shootings, burglaries, and assaults -- have been committed in Baltimore this year.