- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 28, 2007

The District and Maryland’s top leaders said yesterday the key to stopping gun violence across the region is enforcing gun laws, not creating new ones.

“We have some of the toughest gun laws of any state, but we have historically done a very poor job of enforcing those gun laws,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, said at a press conference at 7th District police headquarters in Southeast.

Mr. O’Malley joined D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat, in announcing the D.C.-Maryland Gun Task Force.They said the joint effort — including sharing records and more inspections at gun shops and auctions — will improve attempts to track the flow of illegal guns.

Most of the guns seized last year in the District were traced to Maryland and Virginia shops, according to a report by the Metropolitan Police Department.

The report states 250 were sold in Maryland and 248 were sold in Virginia, but does not specify whether the dealers sold the guns legally.

Virginia is not part of the task force. However, Mr. Fenty said he has reached out to Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine, a Democrat. And D.C. Chief Cathy L. Lanier said she has been talking with Virginia authorities.

Mr. Fenty said the task force’s efforts will be particularly important in the city’s 6th and 7th police districts because they border Prince George’s County, from where many of the guns come and because that is where most of the shootings occur.

The report showed that Realco Guns, in District Heights, was the top seller of guns seized last year. The store sold 76, three times more than the second-highest seller, Maryland Small Arms Range Inc., in Upper Marlboro.

D.C. Attorney General Linda Singer said the city will investigate whether Realco is selling guns illegally. The shop owner could not be reached for comment.

Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson, a Democrat, also attended the press conference and said the county would take part in task-force efforts.

The District’s 169 homicides last year was a 20-year low, and 81 percent of them were committed with guns, according to District police. The department reports at least 104 homicides so far this year.

“A decade or so ago, it was drugs that really drove the crime,” Mr. Fenty said. “Now it’s the enormous growth of guns in the streets of the District.”

However, preliminary data show there have been roughly twice as many assaults and robberies without guns than with them so far this year.

The District’s 30-year-old ban on handguns was repealed in March by a federal appeals court. However, the city successfully asked the court to keep the laws in force through the appeals process.

Mr. Fenty plans to file a challenge to the ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court and has until Sept. 5 to do so after an extension to the deadline was granted.

Chief Lanier yesterday issued a stern warning to people owning or selling illegals guns.

“We are coming for you,” she said. “We are going to find you and take you out of play. This is an effort you have never seen before.”

The announcement comes a week after 12 persons in the city were shot within 24 hours, 11 of whom were wounded over roughly a two-hour period.

The violence prompted the D.C. community group Peaceoholics earlier this week to ask residents to ostracize those who commit drive-by shootings or retaliate against those who cooperate with police.

Chief Lanier maintains that her summer anti-crime initiative is working. She said yesterday all available officers again this weekend would work an eight-hour, Friday night or Saturday shift.

Preliminary department numbers show that since the initiative began June 8, overall crime has decreased compared with the same period last year. However, since the initiative began, armed robbery is up 6 percent over the same period last year.

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