City police recover gun bought illegally; Weapon was last of 54 sold to ineligible buyers during computer delays

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Baltimore police recovered the last of 54 weapons yesterday that were illegally purchased in recent months by criminals and others ineligible to own firearms.

The semiautomatic handgun, a .380 Davis, was surrendered to members of the Violent Crimes Task Force about 7 a.m., according to police spokesman Sgt. Scott Rowe.

Rowe said charges are pending against the owner of the weapon, a resident of the 300 block of N. Gilmor St. in West Baltimore. Rowe would not identify the owner.

State police records show that Baltimore residents bought 10 of the 54 illegally purchased guns. Rowe said charges have been filed against eight of the owners.

State police have said a new computer system caused delays in 1,500 criminal background checks, allowing guns to be purchased by people convicted of crimes as diverse as attempted rape and drug possession.

The process for purchasing guns is uniform throughout the state. Prospective gun buyers fill out applications and merchants notify the state police, who run criminal background checks on the applicants.

People who have been convicted of a felony, certain misdemeanors or domestic violence are banned from owning handguns. People with a history of mental illness, drug or alcohol abuse, and people younger than age 21 also are prohibited from buying guns.

A seven-day waiting period begins when an applicant makes a down payment on a weapon. When the waiting period expires, the gun buyer can pick up the weapon -- even if the criminal background check has not been completed.

State police have said no evidence exists that any of the guns were used in violent crimes, but local police departments have begun investigations.

Baltimore police said they were following up on significant leads to determine if any of the weapons were used in crimes.

"The crime lab is investigating all of the weapons we recovered to see if they have been used in any criminal incident," Rowe said.

The recovery of the last weapon comes a day after state police Superintendent Col. David B. Mitchell reassigned three administrators in charge of licensing. Mitchell issued a statement Saturday in which he said: "I am committed to ensuring that every aspect of the Maryland State Police is operating in a manner that efficiently adheres to Department regulations and procedures."

When questioned about the personnel shifts Saturday, Capt. Greg Shipley, state police spokesman, said the personnel changes were the result of information discovered during an investigation into the five-month backlog in performing criminal background checks.

"These were administrative transfers," Shipley said. "They were not demotions or a result of disciplinary action."

Pub Date: 3/22/99

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