Washington police urge gun control as murder rate wanes
By Robert MacPherson ,AFPWASHINGTON -- Washington's police chief spoke out Thursday in favor of tougher gun laws in the United States after statistics showed the homicide rate in the nation's capital at its lowest level in a half-century.
January 5, 2013, 12:06 am TWN
Eighty-eight murders were committed in the District of Columbia in the past year, compared with the late 1980s and early 1990s when the number routinely surpassed 400 annually in the midst of a crack cocaine epidemic.
But while Washington has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, guns nonetheless figured in 59 of the homicides in the city last year.
Debate over U.S. gun laws raged last month following the massacre of 20 first-grade students and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, by an unhinged teenager using a Bushmaster assault rifle.
Asked about a possible ban over such military-style weapons, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier told reporters that law enforcement cannot “stop everything from happening,” but can reduce risks.
“High capacity magazines and automatic rifles — those are two things we ought to be thinking about in terms of reducing the risk (of homicide) and reducing harm,” she said.
Washington, a city of 617,000, long ago shed its reputation as “the murder capital of the world.” The drug trade and crime has waned amid an influx of new residents and investment.
But although 2012 was the first year in decades in which murders fell below the 100 mark, anyone in Washington who wants a handgun, rifle or shotgun can easily buy one by taking a short drive into neighboring Maryland or Virginia.