Kudos to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly for finally holding a gun buyback program in Queens, after holding one in every other borough last year. While it took some prodding by Councilman James Sanders, we are very pleased to see that funds for this worthy program were set aside.
The program is especially needed in south and east Queens, where homicides increased by a staggering rate last year. Within the areas covered by Borough Patrol Queens South, which includes precincts in Richmond Hill, Jamaica and Ozone Park, homicides jumped from 43 in 2007 to 71 last year.
Fortunately, the gun buyback program, held last Saturday at six churches throughout the area, proved successful and will hopefully lead to others in the future. A total of 919 working guns were collected, including 254 revolvers, 137 semi-automatic pistols and seven assault rifles. That marks a record for a single-day buyback in the city, eclipsing the 700-plus total reached last October in Manhattan.
Individuals were invited to bring working, illegal weapons to one of the churches in exchange for a $200 Chase bank debit card, no questions asked.
With lives constantly being lost in association with illegal guns – and our federal gun control laws severely lacking –the city’s monetary investment in this program is a priceless investment. In this case, the 919 weapons cost the NYPD and the district attorney’s office a total of $158,880.
Officials including Councilman Sanders (D-Laurelton) are hopeful that future buybacks will be even more successful, especially as the weather improves and word spreads that individuals really can drop the weapons off without fear. Until our federal government gets serious about keeping illegal guns from flowing onto our streets, this is one of the best tools authorities have to help rid the city of illegal firearms. We hope that District Attorney Brown builds on this momentum and hosts another event later this year.