Crime tape is shown overflowing from a garbage can Wednesday morning. / Esteban Parra, The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal
WILMINGTON, Del. - Delaware officials hope to see a drop in gun violence with the creation of a statewide unit targeting illegal gun sales and distribution of firearms.
Gov. Jack Markell was joined by elected officials and law enforcement officers during his announcement of the initiative Wednesday.
"If somebody purchases a gun and they give it to somebody who's not supposed to have it, and they keep doing it, that's an incredible problem. And that's part of what happens here," Markell said after the event. "People who are not able to buy guns don't buy the guns. They find other people to buy the guns for them, and that's where they get them, and we got to crack down on that."
The announcement came less than 12 hours after four people were shot in three incidents in New Castle County.
Peace activists embraced Markell after Wednesday's event.
Lamotte X, director of the PeaceKeepers' Wilmington chapter, said the unit is "better than nothing."
He said people who carry out gun crimes are not buying their weapons from a store.
"If I was somebody who was going to shoot somebody, I wouldn't go to the gun shop to put my name down," X said. "This is why I believe this unit is being formed, because they're not coming from legitimate gun stores.
"I think many lives could have been saved if it wasn't so easy to get a gun to kill someone."
Delaware state prosecutor Kathleen Jennings, who spoke Wednesday, described the recent rash of violence as "unacceptable."
"Where are these guns coming from?" Jennings said.
Wilmington had 61 shootings this year as of Wednesday, 16 of which were fatal, according to a News Journal database.
"This is really about enforcing some of the laws that are already on the books," Markell said.
Markell described Wilmington's struggle with gun violence as "heartbreaking."
While conceding that there is no "quick fix" to the city's violent crime, he said the unit will be a benefit for Wilmington. He also identified Dover and Seaford as communities that could benefit from the unit's efforts.
Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings said the number of guns the city collects has increased dramatically since he first joined the force in the mid-1980s. Officers collect a gun a day, compared with one a month three decades ago, he said.
Cummings said trafficking weapons has become big business for some people.
"For an individual who doesn't have a record, they can buy weapons and then they claim they lost them," he said. "In this particular task force and some of the laws that are around it, people who legally buy weapons would have to report that weapon stolen. Right now, that's not mandatory that you have to report it stolen."
The impact of the unit's work will ease crime in the long run, Cummings said.
"We may not see it immediately, but once we get to finding out where the weapons are coming from, who's out there purchasing it, it's going to make a major impact," he said. "Obviously, it's going to slow down the rate at which weapons are getting to the streets."
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