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Gun Buyback Follows 3 Fatal Shootings in 3 Months

Evanston held its first gun buyback Saturday, Dec. 15. The program was spearheaded by Carolyn Murray, whose 19-year-old son, Justin, was shot and killed Nov. 29.

Two weeks after , Carolyn Murray stood at Christ Temple MB Church in Evanston, watching as dozens of people turned over rifles and handguns during the city’s first gun buyback program.

In a tragic irony, Murray . When 14-year-old Dajae Coleman was shot and killed in September, the city got behind her efforts, and a date was set: Dec. 15.

In the three months between Coleman’s death and this Saturday’s gun buyback, there have been two more fatal shootings, including Justin’s death, and one shooting that left a 20-year-old Evanston man hospitalized in critical condition. Police say the most recent shootings are part of an extended family feud that may have started with a shooting at the Keg in 2005—and they believe there could be still more violence to come.

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The gun buyback ran from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Evanston police photographed and catalogued the guns one by one before they are to be inventoried and eventually destroyed, organizers say.

By 2 p.m., police had collected more than 30 weapons. Murray says she would have been happy with one fewer gun on the streets, but the results were a step in the right direction. 

“We no longer live in Mayberry,” said Murray. “Our town needs a makeover. Churches, parents, the community, the police—we need to come together.”

The gun buyback program, she said, was just one part of what Evanston could be doing to prevent further violent deaths. A longtime member of the West Evanston Strategic Team community group, Murray said change must start block by block. 

“I would like people to get involved in their community, in their block,” she said. “If you weren’t active before, now is the time to start.”

As gun owners trickled in to collect the $100 offered for each weapon, Chief Richard Eddington said he, too, was pleased with the program’s results so far.

“We’ve gotten guns that people weren’t comfortable having,” he said, adding that unsecured guns can lead to accidents that kill or injure children. “If we take these unsecured guns out of circulation, we’ll prevent these accidental shootings."

When they’re not properly stored in a safe, guns are also a prime target for burglars, Eddington said. 

“If you’re in the house for a minute, these are extremely valuable items to criminals,” he said. 

While the program was designed to get guns off the streets, Eddington said he hoped it would have a secondary effect: building credibility for the police in the community. As officials had promised, the gun buyback was operated as an amnesty program, meaning no one was arrested, even if they turned in a weapon for which they did not have legal ownership.

“It is a building block to our continuing drive to obtain and maintain credibility in the community,” he said.

Rev. Kenneth Cherry, of Christ Temple MB Church, said that hosting the gun buyback was part of his church’s service to the community.

“The general sense of the congregation is that the church has a responsibility to pray and to find a course of action,” he said.

Cherry, who gave Justin Murray’s eulogy two weeks ago, said that through his work in the community, he knew almost everyone who had been shot and killed that year. Dajae Coleman’s father is a member of his congregation, he said, and he knew the mother of the man who was shot and critically injured last Saturday.

“It’s heartbreaking,” he said. “If we can get one gun from being used in a violent crime, it’s successful.”

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Lonson Williams December 16, 2012 at 12:02 AM
What exactly does the "amnesty" mean? If a gun matches the characteristics of a weapon that might have been used in a crime are they going to investigate its provenance? Could a criminal effectively get rid of the weapon that killed Justin Murray with his/her hands clean? Please clarify.
Rick December 16, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Cops routinely lie to people they regard as suspects in crimes. Who in their right mind would trust a cop's promise to accept these weapons with no questions asked? And as Lonson Williams asks above, are the cops going to avert their eyes if they are given a weapon they have reason to suspect was used in a crime? Finally, does the city truly expect that criminals are going to turn in a weapon for $100? This whole gun buyback business looks like attempt, well-meaning no doubt, to appear to be doing something when the true solution lies much more deeply.
Candace Hill December 16, 2012 at 01:32 AM
A program like this isn't targeted at criminals. Its for other people who may have old guns around the house that may have belonged to other family members. Many times a child has been killed by finding a gun that no one remembered was loaded. Many times a gun has been stolen in a burglary that people didn't remember they had. A program like this sweeps up those kinds of household guns that can cause a tragedy.
Lonson Williams December 16, 2012 at 06:28 AM
Candace, There is an explicit mention of "amnesty" in the article and the City's PR materials. You can't offer amnesty to people who are in compliance with existing laws and regulations so the program is explicitly targeted to criminals. We still need clarification from the city as to how this program might impact investigations relating to gun crimes in the city. All of the peer reviewed studies on the relationship between gun buy back programs and violence prevention suggest that the programs are not effective. Given Tisdahl's weak position on drug crime and the cops' inability to solve gun death cases, they need to be straight on why they are pushing such an ill-conceived idea.
Jennifer Fisher (Editor) December 17, 2012 at 04:47 AM
That's a good question. I'll see if "amnesty" extends that far. My understanding was that "no police action" would be taken as a result of someone turning in a gun...but you raise an interesting point.
Jennifer Fisher (Editor) December 17, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Lonson, here's the answer regarding amnesty from the police department's spokesperson: "There will be no enforcement regarding the turn in of a weapon. If it turns out a weapon was used in a shooting, police may consider talking with that person to determine where the weapon may have come from."
J C December 17, 2012 at 11:40 PM
You can bet all the guns will be finger printed test fired and put in a database. Any match with a crime will have a knock at your door.
cityg187 December 18, 2012 at 05:34 PM
This was nice but its not enough if you wanna stop the violence Create some jobs in Evanston niggaz have no job and so they sell to make ends meet and the streets aren't fair to anybody one day the Guy u used to hustle with turns on you and boom now its gun play..I blame our fake ass mayor and the youth job center

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