CPD: Number of illegal guns is 'off the hook'

Posted at 12:39 AM, Sep 11, 2015

A particularly violent start to September - which included one child dead and two teens injured by drive-by shootings - has Cleveland Police speaking out about illegal guns.

“People settle their score with a gun now,"  Cleveland Police Commander Gary Gingell said.

Gingell oversees the force’s gang impact unit. “It’s off the hook,” he said.

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“Moms, grandmas, uncles, aunts; if you know somebody in your family who shouldn’t have a weapon, if they have that weapon in your home, get it out of your home,” Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said in a press conference on Monday.

Last week’s drive-by shootings were book-ended by dozens of guns taken by police from a violent Lakewood gang, plus a dozen more stolen from a Middleburg Heights gun shop this week.

“Guns are everywhere,” said John Senn, a former Cleveland Police vice detective. “It’s hard to stem the tide or flow of illegal firearms in a community.”

Just last weekend, Gingell’s unit recovered 15 guns from Cleveland streets.

“That’s a lot, that’s a lot,” he said.

Both Gingell and Senn say firearms are constantly stolen, from homes and businesses, then re-sold for as little as $50 on the street.

It’s also easy to go to any gun show in Ohio and pick up a firearm there, as there are no questions asked and no background check required.  

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That’s because private sellers, who often set up booths at the shows, do not have to follow the same rules as federally licensed dealers.

“It’s just not the scrutiny that there is if you buy from a gun shop,” said Gingell.

No matter how someone purchases a gun in the state, there is no limit to how many that buyer can get at once, which perpetuates so-called straw purchases.

“I become the front person for you getting the gun,” said Tim Dimoff, a former Akron narcotics detective.

“We’re really focusing on the folks who are out there now carrying guns,” added Gingell. “If we can get the gun away from them, at least that night, maybe they won’t shoot someone.”

Gingell and other law enforcement officials tell that stiffer laws, which include closing the loophole on gun shows, would help curb the problem of illegal guns.

They also call for stricter punishments for those caught with an illegal firearm.

In the first eight months of this year, Cleveland Police said it seized 517 guns, down from 606 in the same time period last year.

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Cleveland’s gang impact unit just added nine more detectives, which brings the total to 24 members of the unit.


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