WITH about 4,000 captured guns in front of him, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani unveiled Mar. 7 a plan to crack down on the estimated 1 million-2 million illegal guns in the city.
The mayor, in the first of a series of anticrime measures promised during his election campaign, says the city's new approach is to get the New York Police Department (NYPD) to give more effort to finding out the history of each gun.
``We're not developing the story that lies behind the gun,'' says Mr. Giuliani.
Once the police know where the gun originated, they will work with the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to cut down on gun trafficking. According to the mayor, 90 percent of the illegal guns in New York came from other states.
``Guns are in the middle of everything,'' says Police Commissioner William Bratton, who noted that three of the four guns seized after the fatal ambush and shooting of some Hasidic Jews last week came from out of state.
John Timoney, the chief of the NYPD, says the new policy is really a change in emphasis. In the past, when police have taken a weapon, ``it was treated as an isolated crime,'' explains Chief Timoney. There was no attempt to try to find the source of the gun, for example.
Now, detectives will question criminals caught with guns. They will try to determine where the gun came from and where it was bought. Timoney says the aim will be to get witnesses and informants to develop cases against gun traffickers. The punishment for interstate smuggling of firearms is usually five years in prison. To implement the program, the city's street crime unit will be increased by 25 officers to concentrate on one high-crime area at a time to remove guns.
The police also plan on using technology on the guns they do retrieve. The state will provide the city with enough money for two sophisticated computers that can compare the shell casings from every captured gun with the bullets involved in crimes. The two computers can compare 10 weapons a day. This may help solve other crimes and lead to additional charges brought against criminals and illegal gun traffickers.
At the same time as the Mayor introduced his plan, Gov. Mario Cuomo attacked the New York State senate for not enacting a ban on assault weapons. ``What do you say to a mother when her child is killed by an assault weapon designed to kill the greatest number of people in the shortest period of time?'' asked the governor.