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By Bettina Weiss
August 25, 2015
Caption : In response to the increase in homicides, the city is increasing incentives for residents to turn in illegal guns.     

Approximately 660,000 people live in Washington, D.C. and so far this year the city has had 98 homicides. This number is up 36 percent from the same time in 2014. According to a letter from Mayor Muriel Bowser, the Metropolitan Police Department has seized 944 illegal guns this year. Chief of Police Cathy L. Lanier said that officers had seized 102 illegal guns in the past 30 days, which she termed a “staggering number,” according to the Washington Post.

In Washington, it is illegal to possess sawed-off shotguns, machine guns, short-barreled rifles, assault weapons, and .50 BMG rifles. In order for a gun to be classified as legal, it must be registered with the police department. To qualify for registering a weapon, the resident must be 21 years old and cannot have a conviction of weapon or dangerous drug offenses. Furthermore, the resident cannot have been acquitted of a criminal charge by reason of insanity, committed to a mental institution, or have a history of violent behavior. In addition, the buyer cannot have been found negligent in any firearm mishap, injuring or killing someone else.

While these rules are much stricter than in other parts of the country, the homicide rate is far from exemplary. According to the Washington Post, more than 30 people have been killed in the past two months, including 14 in the past 30 days.

“The Nation’s Capital should serve as an example of how to stop gun violence, not as a symbol of the growing epidemic,” said Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence President Dan Gross. “Congress should immediately pass a law expanding Brady background checks. And federal law enforcement should take action against ‘bad apple’ gun dealers who sell the majority of guns used in crimes.”

The city has a different idea of how to stop the violence. In response to the sudden surge, Washington is increasing its rewards for seized illegal guns. Washington will pay a $2,500 reward for a tip leading to gun seizures, up from $1,000. Information leading to an arrest and conviction in a shooting earns a reward of $10,000, up from $1,000, according to Reuters.

Why the sudden increase in killings? DC’s Chief of Police and Mayor attribute the increase in gun violence to “a rise in the use of synthetic drugs, an increase in guns, repeat violent offenders out of prison and on the streets, and petty disputes being settled with gunfire.”

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