Pols, police push for less violence; Say gun buybacks are pivotal

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After a wave of citywide violence that included several deaths in Queens, elected officials and the NYPD have each said the other side has to do more to keep the city safe.File photo
After a wave of citywide violence that included several deaths in Queens, elected officials and the NYPD have each said the other side has to do more to keep the city safe.

The shells are gone, but the discussion over whose responsibility it is to keep the streets safe has broken out into a different sort of fire fight.

After a wave of citywide violence that included several deaths in Queens, elected officials and the NYPD have each said the other side has to do more to keep the city safe.

For example, according to Councilmember James Sanders, there were no gun buyback programs in Queens over the course of the last three years.

Sanders, who represents the area where three men were killed and another critically injured in an AK-47 shooting, noted that all the other boroughs have had successful gun buybacks.

Adding to the fervor were comments by Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly last week, when he said there had been a relatively silent response by elected officials in regards to the shooting.

State Senator Shirley Huntley said she wasn’t sure what the commissioner wanted from elected officials, adding she had a clear line of communication with the 113th Precinct and officers were keeping her well informed.

Sanders said that District Attorney Richard A. Brown needs to sponsor more gun buyback programs, as the most recent was in 2009, which Sanders helped organize.

In the six hours the drive lasted, Sanders said, more than 900 guns were taken off the streets.

“That [the shooting] took place on a residential street, directly in front of a public school, only serves to drive home the dangers that have crept into our community,” he said. “We will not tolerate it here, and we will move heaven and earth to ensure our safety and the safety of our children.”

Brown, in a statement, said getting weapons off the street was a key priority for the DA’s office — gun buybacks were just some of the ways to achieve this.

“We have used gun buy backs in the past and we will use them again when we deem them appropriate,” Brown said. “We are in constant dialogue with the NYPD about where and when to have one. I would remind individuals that they can currently turn in guns at their local police precinct and receive $100 – no questions asked.”

The NYPD does host buyback programs, which, according to police, have brought in more than 7,700 weapons since the venture’s inception. In a recent event at St. Benedict’s Church in Jamaica, police said more than 50 guns were taken off the street, including 19 semi-automatic handguns.

But officials say their next target needs to be reducing the use of automatic weapons. One suggestion, Sanders said, was that the federal government re-enact the Brady Bill, which banned the sale of automatic weapons nationwide.

Councilmember Leroy Comrie said that, to curb the violence, a more holistic approach to decreasing crime, including community engagement and getting more people jobs, must be taken.

“[We] need to get more jobs so there are fewer people walking around frustrated,” he said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg addressed the issue of violence on Sunday, July 15 at The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Jamaica, where he defended stop-and-frisk and called for a community effort to decrease crime citywide.

“And that’s why – in addition to everything else we are doing – police officers stop and question those who are suspected of criminal activity – and frisk those who are suspected of carrying a weapon,” he said. “Those stops have recovered thousands of guns over the past decade, and tens of thousands of knives.”