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Gun buyback numbers dip; 193 collected over two days.

WORCESTER - The city's annual Goods for Guns buyback program brought in 193 weapons over two days, including a 9 mm submachine gun and an AK-47.

The total consisted of 69 handguns, 65 semi-automatic weapons and 59 rifles, according to Dr. Michael P. Hirsh, chief of the Division of Pediatric Surgery & Trauma at UMass Memorial, one of the organizers.

The total was down from the program's average of about 210 guns a year, but Dr. Hirsh was happy. "Even if I got one weapon off the street I'd be pleased," he said, noting that two-thirds of this year's guns were handguns or semi-automatics. "Those are the weapons of interpersonal injury, and we like to get those, preferentially, off the street."

The AK-47 is about the 20th the program has received over the nine years the program has run. He said the one that came in this year was probably Vietnam-era, but others have been in mint condition.

The submachine gun, he said, "was apparently used for hunting, but it's really a very, very nasty weapon in the hands of a gang or a criminal element."

In past years, the guns have been crushed for scrap metal, but the coalition that runs the program has a different idea this year. They'd like to disable the guns while leaving them recognizable and incorporate them into an arch to be placed into one of the city's parks.

The arch, which is still in the planning stages, would be a reflection of the Biblical message about beating "swords into plowshares," Dr. Hirsh said, and would be in honor of Dr. Leonard J. Morse, the city's commissioner of public health, who is about to retire.

The buyback program draws support from a range of organizations, from doctors to the Police Department, and from people who were personally affected by gun violence. William Kotsopoulos, the owner of Jim's Pizza on Belmont Street, donates pizza to buyback volunteers every year because one of his delivery men was held up at gunpoint years ago, Dr. Hirsh said.

The doctor also thanked Walmart, which donates the gift certificates participants receive for bringing in a gun.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Dec 19, 2010
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