The danger of "community guns"

November 24, 2009 9:51:11 PM PST
In some neighborhoods, people are living in fear for the first time in more than a generation. "When I come out of my house, I'm looking all over. I hear footsteps, I look behind me," said Juan Rivera of Washington Heights.

A wave of shootings has caught innocent lives in the fire:

A mother protecting her child in the midst of a shootout; a seventh grader on his way to McDonald's; a 92 year-old woman watching television; and 15-year old Vada Vasquez critically-wounded on her way to school.

The suspected gunman in every case is a teenager.

"Everyone should be concerned," said Spec Agent Joe Green of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms

Green says drug gangs now routinely hide their weapons in apartments and back alleys to avoid being caught if they're stopped by the police.

"They go, they pick up the gun, they do whatever crime they want to commit, come back and put the gun back," Green said.

The guns, known to law enforcement as "community guns," are borrowed and sometimes even rented from gang members.

The weapons are showing-up in home invasions, street robberies and bystander shootings. Some of them have their serial numbers scratched-out.

"The sad part is a lot of these young kids that are now running around with these drug gangs see where the guns are, and it gives them access to the guns. Some of the senior gang members might not even know that the guns are missing," Green said.

The "community gun" used in the schoolyard executions in Newark was recovered a year later in a raid on Long Island.

In March, a round-up of forty-one suspected gang members turned up five guns hidden in a stash house in Washington Heights.

"It's certainly possible that they can go and get these guns, and wave them around on the streets just to intimidate someone," Green explained. "One of the biggest concerns that we have is people getting these guns and bringing them into schools."

"A lot of kids fight with guns now," one man told us. "They're too scared to fight with their fists. It's easier for them to pull the trigger than it is to fight with your fists."

Jahania Pizzini is worried about her five year-old daughter.

"I think about myself taking my daughter to school every day. It's really sad. All these young kids getting their hands on guns. It's senseless. It's senseless," Jahania said.

There may be fewer guns on the streets, but experts say more and more people are getting their hands on them. Mayor Bloomberg said this week that the biggest threat to New Yorkers security is no longer terrorism. It's gun violence.