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Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Sixers, Philly cops to begin 'Guns for Tickets' program

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia 76ers and police officials Tuesday announced a program aimed at curbing gun violence by exchanging tickets for guns.

The one-week program opens Wednesday. Anyone can bring a working gun into a city police station and exchange it for a voucher good for a pair of tickets to an upcoming 76ers game, no questions asked.

"If we get one [gun], it's a successful program," said Billy King, the team's president. "If we get one, if we get a thousand, whatever we get that's going to be good enough."

Sitting at a table with 15 guns ranging from semiautomatic rifles to tiny, easily concealed handguns, Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson said the program wasn't only for illegal guns. He would be happy if law-abiding citizens turned in their firearms, too.

"Any gun that can kill needs to be taken off the streets," Johnson said.

The city's murder rate spiked last year and is on a similar pace in 2006. There were 380 homicides in the city in 2005 -- the highest total in five years. There were 44 homicides in the city from Jan. 1 through Monday, just slightly off last year's pace.

The program is similar to one the 76ers ran in 1999. "Guns for Gear" brought in close to 900 guns in just three days.

The 76ers aren't the first NBA team to run such a program. The Denver Nuggets traded tickets for guns for several years as part of the "Operation Cease Fire" program in the mid to late '90s.