Fifty-five guns were turned in on Saturday, June 23, at the Southeast Queens Gun Buyback Event. The event, which was held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Benedict the Moor Church in Jamaica, started out with a bang, as a loaded Colt .45 semi-automatic was the first gun turned in.
By 1 p.m. 36 guns had been collected.
At the conclusion of the event, 19 semi-automatic handguns, 35 revolvers and one rifle were handed over. Four of the guns were loaded. A Tec-9 semi-automatic and a .380-caliber blue painted handgun were among those submitted at the event.
In order to incentivize people to get their guns off the streets and make Queens a safer place, the program offered bank cards and a no-questions-asked policy. Each person who turned in a working handgun was given a $200 bank card, and $20 was paid for each rifle. No one had to sign any paperwork or leave a name.
It was an expensive project, which the office of Queens Borough President Helen Marshall funded. Marshall put out $50,000 for the event, but said the rewards are worth it.
“One of the most important things we can do is save lives,” Marshall said. “I don't want to open up the newspaper and see another young man killed by a gun, or someone getting hit by a bullet that wasn't intended for them,” she said. “The young black men are the victims.”
The 113th Precinct, which covers South Jamaica, has been in the news lately for the large amount of shootings. In the 113th Precinct alone, gun violence has surpassed other districts, ranking it number five citywide. According to CompStat statistics, there have been 10 murders so far this year. Last year to date there were only five.
“This [gun buyback program] is a necessary component to reduce violence in our community,” Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St.Albans) said at the event. “Most of our cases in Queens deal with drug or personal violence, we're thankful that it's not just random acts of violence.”
Comrie believes that much of the gun violence is linked to high unemployment rates in the area. “We have to try to find way to put people back to work, because the idle time is creating an issue.”
Since its inception in 2008 the Gun Buyback program has recovered approximately 7,700 guns citywide, officials said.