Here's the tally from the Baltimore police commissioner's war on bad guys with guns during the opening minute of 2010:
•A blue .38-caliber Smith & Wesson with four rounds in the chamber.
•A 9 mm PA-63 semiautomatic handgun.
•A .38-caliber Rossi revolver.
•A Mossburg 12-gauge shotgun.
•A chrome two-shot, .38-caliber Derringer pistol.
Five guns, four suspects, two houses.
These guns and arrests were made at rowhouses in East and Northwest Baltimore by police officers who were out by the hundreds over New Year's hunting for holiday revelers celebrating by shooting guns into the air. In all, on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, city police confiscated 29 guns and made 41 gun-related arrests.
It's a dangerous but prolific way to start another year on the war on "bad guys with guns," which Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III has made into one of his signature programs and pet phrases. Last year, his cops seized more than 2,600 guns and made more than 1,100 gun-related arrests. In 2008, they took 2,708 firearms off the streets and put 1,226 suspects in handcuffs.
For police, five guns in one minute is not a bad way to start the year. Of course, the people arrested don't see it that way.
Robert M. Booze Sr. is a 68-year-old retired bakery worker who said he bought his Derringer about 25 years ago from a gun store on Broadway in Fells Point to "protect my home."
He hardly fits the stereotype of a Baltimore gunman, and the Derringer is hardly the gun of choice on the city's drug corners, though the company's Web page describes the gun as having "long stood as the ultimate full power concealable firearm." The site notes it is "the best little shooting iron to ride out of Texas."
Booze, released on bail, answered the door in sagging white painter's pants and no shirt. He was busy fixing the back door to his rowhouse on Norfolk Avenue, off Reisterstown Road in lower Park Heights, kicked in by police after they saw people fire guns in the backyard and run inside.
"We were just shooting in the air," Booze said, adding that he didn't think it was such a big deal that it required a half-dozen cops to raid his house.
"We were just celebrating the new year. It's how we do it in Baltimore." The house had pictures of grandchildren on the walls and plastic toys scattered about.
There were children home when the foursome began firing off their guns, Booze said, explaining, "They were inside. We were outside." Police said they found the Derringer in Booze's pants pocket, the .38 Rossi in a book bag, the Mossburg in a carry case and the 9 mm in a basement utility room.
Bealefeld noted there were children in a home that he said also contained "a mini-arsenal." It's not the celebratory gunfire, he said, but "the mentality of guns in particular. I think people have a very low threshold about the possession of guns.
"For every day, week, month and year I'm in this job, I'm going to continue to agitate. It's wrong for the wrong people to have guns. ... These aren't guns that somebody's hunting rabbits with. These are the weapons we see every day on the streets of Baltimore doing robberies, shootings and murders. There is a cavalier attitude about carrying guns on the streets of our city."
Across town and just after midnight, a detective in an alley said in a report he watched a man walk out of his house on Whitridge Avenue, between Guilford and Barclay in East Baltimore, and was 15 feet away from him when he "looked both ways in the alley way and then discharged one single shot into the air."
Police arrested Jason A. Jones, 31, and said they found his gun, still loaded with four bullets, in a basement garbage can. Jones refused to comment, saying, "I'm in the process of going to court."
Jones and Booze and his three friends were each charged with discharging a firearm in city limits and released on personal bond. Booze said his Derringer is legally registered. "I want it back," he said.