Gun violence issues bring concerns to N and NE Portland residents

PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

A violent spring in north and northeast Portland has brought up familiar questions and concerns about the city’s ongoing issues with gun violence.

In a two-week span in the middle of March, the Portland Police Bureau’s Gang Enforcement Team investigated a dozen different shootings in north and northeast Portland.

One thing fueling the violence, community activists say, is the easy access to guns on the street.

“They get them from friends, family, neighbors. People they hang out with that don’t have a criminal record,” Laurie Palmer, whose son Jazman Moore was a victim of gun violence, said. Her son was shot six times at a club on Columbia Boulevard in 2015.

Guns are routinely taken off the streets during criminal investigations, confiscated if they are found on suspects with a felony record, or if they’re found to be connected to the commission of a crime.

“We did a three-week mission in February where we recovered 27 firearms,” Officer Andy Polas, who is a member of the Gang Enforcement Team said.

Last year, the police bureau sent 104 firearms to be melted down and recycled. 

In mid-February, Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese got approval from the board of commissioners to destroy more than 550 firearms collected both through criminal investigations and through the county’s gun turn-in program.

While some agencies around the country turn around and sell the firearms they seize, both Multnomah County and the City of Portland opt to destroy them.

“We want to make certain these firearms are never used again in the commission of a crime or tragically used by someone in a mental health crisis to take their own life,” Reese said.

But Palmer, who now works with the community to address gun violence, thinks the supply of guns on the street will continue to outpace the guns that are destroyed, and thinks reducing gun violence will take more than just taking guns away.

“I would also give the court more power when it comes to people that legally can get a gun that put it in the hands of a gang member,” Palmer said. “They should get the same sentence that somebody that kills someone gets. Then they’ll stop doing it.”

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