D.C. officials on Monday announced a $7,500 reward for tips on illegal guns as the city grapples with rising homicides.
The city already offers up to $2,500 for information leading to the recovery of an illegal gun and now it will triple that reward for tips specifically resulting in the arrest of anyone possessing or trafficking “ghost” guns or illegally modified firearms.
The news comes less than a week after the nation’s capital recorded its 199th homicide this year — surpassing last year’s tally of 198, the highest rate in 16 years.
The initiative is a partnership between the Metropolitan Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that will run through the end of this year.
Charlie Patterson, special agent in charge of the Washington Field Division of the ATF, said during a news conference that it is “a plea for help.”
“We at ATF want the D.C. community to know that we are extremely concerned about what is going on in the District because we as community members live, work and raise our children here also,” Mr. Patterson said.
He added that 25% of all firearms and shell cases recovered in the city are ballistically linked to other shootings, including homicides and in serious assaults.
The boosted reward will target illegal firearms including so-called ghost guns, or homemade guns without serial numbers, and guns with conversion devices commonly referred to as “auto sears” or “glock switches.”
Greggory Pemberton, president of the D.C. Police Union, told The Washington Times on Monday that, “It is great to see the city acknowledging the necessity of law enforcement and the need for proactive efforts to reduce crime, but gun tips are only a small part of the solution to violent crime.”
The police department, he said, currently has about 3,400 officers — which is 400 fewer than it had in the beginning of 2020.
“In order to properly address the threat of violent crime in this city, we need to get our staffing levels back to where they should be,” Mr. Pemberton said. “This is the most important aspect of reducing violence.”
City statistics as of Monday show homicides are up 12% compared to the same time last year when 178 were recorded.
A police spokesperson said Monday that the department has recovered more than 2,000 illegal firearms this year — at least 42 of which had Glock switches and more than 300 of which are ghost guns.
Last week, the D.C. Council voted to change the city’s law prohibiting ghost guns in response to a federal lawsuit filed in September which argues the law is too “far-reaching.”
Under the current law, a ghost gun is defined as “a firearm that, after the removal of all parts other than a receiver, is not as detectable … by walkthrough metal detectors.”
When all parts besides the receiver are removed from a gun, all that is left is the polymer frame — which is not made of metal. Thus, the suit claims the city “has apparently unwittingly made … existing polymer frame handguns illegal.”
The council, however, approved an amendment to the law that would require guns with an attached barrel, trigger and firing mechanism to be detectable, even if the receiver is polymer-based. It would also add a legal process for residents to own homemade firearms.
The proposed changes must receive final approval from Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat.