After a night of violence and four overnight shootings, politicians assembled Sunday morning at New York City Hall to announce funding of a new citywide gun buyback initiative across the five boroughs.
The new initiative, announced at a Sunday news conference by Council Speaker Christine Quinn, will provide $300,000 in funding from the NYPD and City Council, to fund 10 gun buyback events held across the city in the coming months.
So far, the dates and locations of the events have not been announced, but officials said the agencies are working to determine the best locations based on statistics of shootings, homicides, firearms arrests and gun trafficking patterns. During the events, members of the public are invited to exchange weapons for money. A $200 bank card is provided for all operable handguns and assault rifles, while $20 is offered for the return of rifles and shotguns.
Quinn said the announcement is “a commitment to make sure [the buyback events] are happening in every borough. Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes said his office has had exponential success in hosting similar events and collecting a significant amount of guns. Gloria Cruz of the Bronx Chapter of Million Moms, which also hosts buyback events, echoed those sentiments. The Bronx woman, whose niece was killed by gunfire at a Labor Day picnic in 2005, said her group’s first event in 2011 resulted in the collection of 974 guns. She estimated that 8,898 weapons have been returned at buyback events citywide.
“Every single life lost to gun violence is a tragedy for our city,” Quinn said, flanked by supporters and fellow council members. “We know gun buybacks make a difference,” she said, noting that the initiative has proven to reduce crime. “Any gun you get off the street is a good thing.”
Although no police officials attended the press conference – which Quinn accredited to scheduling conflicts – Police Commissioner Ray Kelly issued a statement, which read in part: “New York City police officers take thousands of guns off the street, through proactive policing, often at risk of their own lives, as demonstrated so tragically with the assassinations of Detective Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin.
Nemorin, of Baldwin Harbor and Andrews, of Middle Village, were both killed in 2003 while conducting an undercover gun buy operation on Staten Island. Ronnell Wilson was later convicted of murdering the two officers and was sentenced to death before a judge overturned his sentencing on a legal technicality. He was resentenced last week in federal court after a jury found that he should be executed for the crime.
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Queens), who was celebrating his one-year wedding anniversary and his father’s birthday Sunday, said he wanted to make sure he attended the announcement for a 15-year-old girl who lives in his district. The teen, April Simpson-Jackson, was shot last year inside her apartment at the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City. Van Bramer said the teenager was sitting at her desk completing a homework assignment when a bullet flew into her room and struck her in the hand. The councilman recalled heading to the hospital with her frantic mother and hearing the teen say that she heard gunshots every night. Simpson-Jackson was unable to attend the press conference, Van Bramer said, because she was at church.
Quinn said the police department will look to make the outreach as “aggressive and inclusive” as possible by having former gang members promote the buyback events in their communities. “This is one piece of the puzzle.”
Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) chimed in and said there is no one answer to solving gun violence, but said events such as those proposed are a step in the right direction.