- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2007

BALTIMORE (AP) — Mayor Sheila Dixon, who says the city’s fight against violence must emphasize the elimination of illegal guns, is proposing a gun-offender registry and a police gun unit to get weapons off the streets.

Mrs. Dixon, a Democrat, announced her plans Wednesday while standing among roughly 300 sawed-off shotguns, revolvers and semiautomatic handguns seized in the past month.

She proposed the re-establishment of the gun unit to trace illegal weapons to their sellers; forcing city residents convicted of gun offenses to register with police and tracking information on gun arrests, convictions and sentences.

“We’re going to have to curb the violence in this city by going after these illegal guns,” Mrs. Dixon said. “I don’t know how more plain and simple I can make it.”

The new gun-offender registry, called GunStat, would require approval from the City Council.

“This is going to mean some extra work for our police,” said Mrs. Dixon, who vowed her proposal would not target legal gun owners. “But we are all in this together. We’re not saying that you can’t own one.”

Police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm supports the proposal for the city, where 93 persons have been killed this year, including 80 from gunshot wounds. Nonfatal shootings have increased to 233, up from 176 in 2006.

Paul Blair, the head of Baltimore’s police union, has been critical of department understaffing and questioned how much more work would be required of officers.

“Where did they find the extra police sitting around?” he asked. “Where are we going to find these people to do” the tracking?

City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat, said passing the gun-registry legislation would be a “significant priority” for the council this year.

Mrs. Dixon does not expect her proposals to need much additional city funding.

“We’re just going to be doing it a little smarter, a little better,” she said.

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