2013-01-11 / Front Page

Guns turned in to PDs

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer


The South Portland Police Department is making the public aware of a longstanding program to accept unwanted and unused firearms with no questions asked. In years past, a few firearms have been turned in each year, said Lt. Frank Clark. However, since police put the word out in various media outlets, five firearms have been turned during January alone. (Jack Flagler file photo) The South Portland Police Department is making the public aware of a longstanding program to accept unwanted and unused firearms with no questions asked. In years past, a few firearms have been turned in each year, said Lt. Frank Clark. However, since police put the word out in various media outlets, five firearms have been turned during January alone. (Jack Flagler file photo) SOUTH PORTLAND – The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. spurred a discussion of gun control and firearm safety nationwide. After the deaths of 26 victims, including 20 children, Americans looked for answers as to how to prevent a similar nightmare in the future.

At an interfaith vigil in Newtown on Sunday, Dec. 17, President Barack Obama called for change on a national level. Locally, the tragedy has sparked action as well.

The South Portland Police Department decided to make the public aware of a longstanding program to accept unused and unwanted firearms from residents. Police accept firearms or ammunition with no questions asked and oversee their proper disposal.

Lt. Frank Clark of the South Portland Police Department said after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, the department wanted to get the word out about the program.

“In light of some of the recent events and discussion taking place nationwide, it’s a good idea to make sure the same safety discussions are taking place locally,” Clark said.

Clark said in years past, the department has taken only a few firearms every year, mostly from family members who find a firearm that belonged to a deceased relative.

However, since Clark notified local media outlets of the program, he said five firearms – four long guns and one handgun, as well a box of ammunition – were turned in to South Portland police in two days, from Thursday, Jan. 3 to Friday, Jan. 4.

The department accepts weapons with no questions asked, Clark said, because the program is not part of any investigative effort, but rather a public service to get firearms out of homes and off the street.

In the past, police have mostly taken in hunting rifles or handguns, but the department also will accept firearms that may have come from overseas and are illegal in the United States, or illegally modified weapons such as sawed-off shotguns without taking any investigative or legal action.

“It’s really just to encourage as many people as possible to get rid of any legal or illegal guns. It’s not an investigative effort; it’s really just an option for people to use to dispose of weapons they have,” Clark said.

The Cape Elizabeth Police Department takes in unwanted firearms under a similar program. Capt. Brent Sinclair said one or two residents will turn in a firearm to the department each year. Police then stockpile the guns and, when enough have been collected, take them to public works to supervise their proper disposal.

“I think if folks don’t feel comfortable having guns in their house they shouldn’t have them,” Sinclair said.

After the guns are cut up or melted down, Clark said there are a variety of different uses for the metal, including reuse as manhole covers over sewers.

After the Newtown shooting, the discussion of gun ownership in the United States at times became tense between those who hoped to increase safety precautions in the country and those hoping to protect their right to own firearms.

“As a nation, we are left with some hard questions,” President Obama said in his speech to mourners at Newtown.

However, Clark said any discussion, from either side, to find answers to those hard questions is a positive sign.

“As police officers, we support the second amendment as the law of the land. On the other hand, anything that gun owners can do to ensure the safe and responsible storage, handling and use of firearms, the better,” Clark wrote in an email.

“If this initiative helps spur that discussion, then it will be a success.”

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