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Gun Safety: Our Responsibility

Submitted by GPPNA Board President, Katy Frey

Approximately 1,000 guns are recovered in the City of Pittsburgh every year, most of which have been involved in a crime. The City of Pittsburgh is lucky to have a dedicated Firearms Tracking Unit, so our police have a good idea of where these guns come from. This Unit traces every single gun and works closely with the ATF, schools, and youth groups. The scary thing is that most guns were purchased or stolen in the neighborhoods in which they are later used to commit crimes. This means that guns used to commit crimes in Park Place and surrounding neighborhoods generally come from right here, and many of them were purchased legally.

Detective Joe Bielevicz from the Firearms Tracking Unit met with neighborhood representatives through the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG) Safe Neighborhoods Network (SNN) on Saturday November 12, 2011. Bielevicz reports that half of all American homes have firearms and many are improperly stored. One of the most important ways to prevent crime in your neighborhood is to make sure your own guns are locked up in a secure safe that is bolted to the floor. Trigger locks are important for keeping young children safe from gun accidents, but they won’t do much to keep a burglar from carrying your weapon out of your home. Bedside tables are the first place a burglar will look for a gun. Never leave a gun in a parked car and be sure to lock it up in your safe every time you leave your home.

Another major source of guns used in crimes is called “straw purchasing,” where a person who is legally able to purchase a gun will do so and then give it to somebody who either can’t or doesn’t want to own it legally. Detective Bielevicz explained that wives and girlfriends are frequently the straw purchasers, and that one of the most important things we can do is educate young women about the legality and consequences of purchasing a gun for someone else.

What can you do to keep guns out of the hands of criminals? First, if you own a gun, be sure to lock it up in a secure safe that cannot be carried out of your home. If your gun goes missing or is stolen, report it to the police immediately. This saves the Firearm Tracking Unit a tremendous amount of time in the event that your missing gun is involved in a crime. Educate friends and neighbors about the importance of keeping guns locked up and out of parked cars and urge them to report missing or stolen weapons right away. Finally, be a positive influence on the young people in your lives, especially if you think they may be tempted to buy a gun for a friend or to exchange a gun for drugs. Warn them that getting caught purchasing a gun for someone else has a serious, lasting impact on future employment opportunities.

The Safe Neighborhoods Network meets bi-monthly at the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group building, 1901 Centre Avenue, in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. You can learn more about the Safe Neighborhoods Network at http://safeneighborhoodsnetwork.com.

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