Philadelphia officials on Thursday announced a new gun turn-in initiative, asking parents to search their homes for weapons that can be handed over at four locations around the city over the next two weeks.
“We’re calling on parents to do room checks of your house, and if there are any guns that you find, you can turn those guns in to police — no questions asked,” said Bilal Qayyum, president of the Father’s Day Rally Committee. “We’re asking parents to take responsibility.”
Those who turn in weapons, acting Police Commissioner Christine M. Coulter said, will not face prosecution. Locations where guns can be turned in will not require identification from participants. Police, she added, are “not looking to take people into custody” as part of the initiative.
“That one gun, or two guns, or five guns, or 20 guns will all be ones that we now know are not going to be used against our children, [or] used by our young people to settle disputes,” Coulter said.
To date in 2019, more than 1,350 people have been shot in Philadelphia’s ongoing gun violence epidemic — 108 of whom were under 18. The number of children under the age of 18 shot in Philadelphia has been increasing in recent years, making up one out of every 12 shooting victims in 2018. On Wednesday night, a 7-year-old boy and a 24-year-old woman were shot while sitting in a vehicle in West Philadelphia, and then a 15-year-old girl was wounded in a West Philadelphia shooting Thursday afternoon.
“This has been a very challenging year,” City Council President Darrell L. Clarke said.
Unlike previous programs, this initiative will not include incentives such as gift certificates or money for individuals who turn in weapons. Instead, organizers indicated, the incentive is impacting Philadelphia’s gun-violence problem.
“I don’t believe you should have to give out a card for people to go shopping in order for them to do the right thing,” Councilman Kenyatta Johnson said. “If we don’t deal with this issue right now, we are on the verge of losing a whole generation of young people to gun violence. This is a crisis, and it is being treated as such.”
The turn-in program begins Saturday and will continue next Saturday, Dec. 14. Coulter, however, indicated that the program would continue “until we know that we have people that have legitimately checked and gotten rid of guns,” though additional dates were not provided.