I   had hoped for better. Much better.

And maybe there's still plenty of time for York City residents to make up their minds that it's in everyone's best interest to get guns, especially illegal guns, off the streets as soon as possible.

But I'm not holding my breath waiting for city residents to come to their senses. If that were going to happen, it would have happened a long time ago without anyone having to die or someone having to prod them into doing the right thing, the smart thing.

A week or so ago, York City Mayor Kim Bracey and York City Police Chief Wes Kahley announced a new initiative -- it's not a gun buy-back, but a gun give-back -- designed to encourage city residents to surrender any and all guns, illegal or not, to the city police department.

No questions asked. Totally anonymous.

"I say enough is enough," Mayor Bracey said. "We must start speaking up and taking purpose-driven action."

Her action was a response to a recent homicide in York City, when Joseph A. Gomez Jr., 17, was shot and killed in the parking lot of McDonald's at 142 S. George St., about two blocks from Continental Square and less than one block from York City Hall.

In broad daylight. On a Saturday. Multiple gunshot wounds.

York City Police arrested Flair Lamont Griggs, 16, and charged him with homicide and possession of a firearm by a minor.

But it was a slap in the face, a wakeup call, to city officials already feeling the pressure of having to deal with too many acts of violence, crime and gang activity on York City streets.

"We're talking about kids who should be graduating," Bracey said. "I had to do something."


Except that it's not like mayors and police chiefs before Bracey and Kahley haven't tried to do something about gun violence in York City. It's not like those who came before hadn't focused on street crime and gang activity. It's not like Bracey and Kahley haven't lobbied for changes in gun laws and tried to reason with parents and youth living in York City about carrying and using guns.

All to no avail.

And it's not like the criminal element all of a sudden was going to trust the police or any authority figure.

So when Bracey and Kahley announced this new gun initiative, I admit I thought they were grasping at straws. It probably felt that way to them, too.

The city does "not wish to arrest our way out of this matter," Bracey said.

Well, of course it didn't. Because it couldn't.

"We need these guns off our streets and out of the hands of young people," she said.

Of course they do. Because young people too often can't see the forest for the trees. Unless they're running in packs, like wild dogs, packing an illegal handgun, they feel powerless. And no one is going to convince them otherwise. Consequences, intended or otherwise, be damned.

So Bracey figured she'd appeal to everyone's common sense -- she'd accept these guns any way she could get them. No judgment of the person turning them in. No questions asked. Firearms could be dropped off at the police department at 50 W. King St., without even leaving a name.

"The ball is in your court," Chief Kahley said.

That was 10 days ago.

The hope was that law-abiding adults -- parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, brothers and sisters -- who know someone in the family has a dangerous firearm they shouldn't have would find a way to turn it in to police.

To save a life. To prevent a loved one from being killed. To prevent someone else's child from being murdered. To protect all the innocent bystanders out there who don't deserve to be shot, but are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

C'mon people, do the right thing. Just once.

And the disappointing result is that one gun has been turned in to police.

The gun was dropped off anonymously.

No questions asked. No information gathered.

Which is fine, I guess. One gun turned in means one less gun on the streets that could kill someone.

But it's a drop in the bucket.

I'm not surprised. Not even a little bit.

Because in reality the mayor and the police chief were hoping against all hope that the good in people would rise to the top. It was probably asking too much of human nature.

The truth is the people best served by this initiative -- thugs, gang members, criminals and gunslingers -- will be the last people to see the wisdom in it.

They can't. They won't.

It would mean giving up their power, such as it is.

And they'd rather die than do that.

Or kill someone and spend the rest of their life in prison.

The gun initiative was a good idea.

But a wish and a prayer might have served everyone just as well.

Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: lhicks@yorkdispatch.com.