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Another gun collection set for Saturday at 5 sites

Monday, December 08, 2003

By Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

For the first time in the 10 years since it started, the candlelight vigil that marks the start of the annual Goods for Guns buyback program had to be canceled Friday night because of the snowstorm.

But that doesn't mean people didn't bring in their guns on Saturday.

Volunteers collected about 130 of them from Allegheny County residents, including one guy who initially confused Pittsburgh Police Lt. Philip Dacey when he handed over an old thermos at the Downtown collection center.

Inside was a .25-caliber semi-automatic handgun with two full clips.

Turns out the man was a hauler who had collected the thermos among other junk from a house on which he had worked. His young children had been playing with it in the back yard before he decided to clean it out -- and found the pistol.

"I think that really made an impression on him," said Dacey, president of the nonprofit Goods for Guns Inc. "He kept saying, 'My kids were right there.' "

These are the kinds of guns Dacey's group is trying to gather, and organizers are hoping the wintry weather doesn't dampen this Saturday's collection at locations in Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg, Homestead, Monroeville and Braddock.

Usually the program brings in about 800 guns a year, but it depends on news coverage of the candlelight vigil to kick it off. Without that this year, the turnout was somewhat lighter than usual.

The gun program, started by pediatric surgeons dismayed at having to treat young gunshot victims, offers $50 gift certificates for handguns and $25 certificates for rifles or shotguns. Certificates are redeemable from local merchants.

A new feature of this year's program is a raffle. Everyone who turns in a gun will be entered in a drawing to win $500 in gift certificates for a local grocery chain.

The idea behind Goods for Guns is to gather weapons that might otherwise fall into the hands of children. The guns come from lots of sources: the attics of old houses, desk drawers or, in the case of one fully loaded .380-caliber pistol collected Saturday, lying on the street.

Many guns are simply forgotten over the years.

Last year, a woman whose father died in 1940 turned over his .45-caliber pistol. It had been stored for more than 60 years fully loaded. When Dacey checked the bullets, he was surprised to see the date stamped on them: 1918.

All guns turned in are rendered inoperable through welding and cutting. In the past, guns have been melted down or turned into sculptures, including one large piece called "Gun Totem" for which the artist created a 12-foot cylindrical concrete totem pole with the guns embedded in it.

Guns can be turned in this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.: Downtown at Old No. 1 Fire House, Boulevard of the Allies; at the Wilkinsburg Municipal Building, 605 Ross St.; at the Homestead Police Department, 140 E. Ninth St.; in Monroeville at No. 4 Fire Hall, 4370 Northern Pike; and at Braddock Volunteer Fire Department, 1100 Braddock Ave.

Torsten Ove can be reached at or 412-263-2620.

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