‘Please speak up’: Officials ask residents to help stop flow of guns into DC

The recent murder of an 11-year-old boy in the District has local leaders appealing to the public to help stop the flow of illegal guns into the city.

The news conference Thursday also detailed some of the partnerships being used to target gun traffickers.

D.C. police said the top five sources of illegal guns recovered in the city last year were South Carolina (5.7%), North Carolina (6.7%), Georgia (7.6%), Maryland (11.1%) and Virginia (35.2%).

“I have to believe there are family members, there are friends, there are employers that know people are making runs over to Virginia to try to get guns,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Please speak up, please speak up … we do need your help.”

“If you purchase a firearm in Virginia for someone else, or you resided in D.C. and use a false Virginia address, we will prosecute you and it is a felony,” Terwilliger said.

D.C. police Chief Peter Newsham said over the past three years, nearly 6,000 illegal weapons have been recovered in the city. So far this year, more than 1,000 have been taken off the streets, while authorities have investigated “numerous cases” and prosecuted “multiple individuals” associated with illegal guns.

Newsham and Terwilliger also discussed federal partnerships that allow their localities to benefit from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives databases that trace shell casings and purchase histories of firearms.

“The message today is this: We’re putting those on notice that the purchasing of firearms outside the city and illegally transferring those guns, or trafficking those guns, into the District will be aggressively investigated and prosecuted,” said Benedict Ashan, special agent in charge with ATF Washington Field Division. “We will find you, and we will hold you accountable.”

D.C. offers cash rewards of up to $2,500 for tips leading to an arrest and seizure of an illegal gun. And, people can turn in illegal guns to police without penalty.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also reminded residents about the so-called “red flag law,” which allows for the removal of legal weapons from people who may be a danger to themselves or others. “Hopefully, if somebody that you know is carrying a gun (who) you know is in a desperate situation and needs help, you will reach out,” Bowser said.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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