Minneapolis police accepting guns

People convicted of domestic violence are required to turn in their firearms.

by Anna Ewart

Arms were supposed to change hands this week in Minneapolis, but so far, it appears people are holding on to their weapons.

Minneapolis police began accepting guns and ammunition from people convicted of domestic violence Nov. 1.

The program, the first of its kind in Minnesota, was created by the Minneapolis Police Department and Hennepin County courts to allow all precincts to accept firearms in agreement with court guidelines.

But a week after the launch of the program, most precincts have not received any guns.

Federal law prohibits anyone convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor from owning a gun.

Anyone is allowed to drop off an unwanted gun at Minneapolis police stations, but people convicted of domestic assault are required to surrender their guns, according to Lt. Gwen Gunter of the Minneapolis Police Department’s family violence unit.

“We’re asking them to surrender their guns, but really they’ve been mandated,” she said.

The federal law exists because those convicted have already behaved violently. Gunter said gun owners are more likely to use guns against people they know than those they don’t.

“It could be a lethal combination,” Gunter said.

According to the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, 20 women and 12 children were killed in Minnesota in 2006 by domestic violence or child abuse.

Michelle Jacobson, an assistant Minneapolis city attorney, said people who’ve had orders for protection issued against them are also not eligible to own guns under federal law. Minneapolis’ gun-surrender program does not include these people.

The program accepts guns from people convicted of domestic abuse that fit certain criteria, Jacobson said.

People convicted of an assault-related crime who have had a fair trial receive forms to surrender their guns. They must give up their firearms and return the completed forms to authorities.

Inspector Robert Skomra, who commands the 2nd precinct, said he expects to see people drop off guns in the future.

“We haven’t received our first gun yet,” he said.

Skomra also said the 2nd precinct, which includes the University area, probably has the lowest rate of domestic abuse in the city, due to the population demographics.

University Police Chief Greg Hestness said the University probably won’t receive any guns because domestic violence is much less common on campus.

Gun-surrender programs and informing the public are good ways to help reduce gun violence, according to a recent report from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Sgt. Jesse Garcia, Minneapolis Police department spokesman, said the department has not done much to promote the program.

Jacobson said the program has been brought up at Hennepin County meetings, press releases have been given to the media and information is given to people convicted of domestic violence.