After much public outcry from residents and elected officials, the police commissioner and the Queens borough president are sponsoring a gun buyback event on Saturday, June 23. All weapons must be operable and no questions will be asked.
Those who turn in a handgun will receive a $200 bank card and those dropping off a rifle or shotgun will get a $20 card. The weapons should be brought to St. Benedict the Moor Church at 171-17 110 Ave. in Jamaica from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Surprisingly, the Rev. Charles Norris, the pastor of the Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Jamaica, one of the leading advocates for bringing a buyback program to Queens, was not pleased to hear about the event.
He was upset that his group, Clergy United for Community Empowerment, which helped facilitate a similar program with the Queens District Attorney three years ago, had not been notified of the event or asked to help.
Norris further stated that he is offended that the event is being held at “a Catholic church where the pastor is probably white.
“I think it’s a lousy move by the borough president,” Norris said. “It’s a slap in the face to black people and the black churches in this community, and I don’t like it.”
The Rev. Gordon Kusi, pastor at St. Benedict’s, could not be reached by press time.
Leroy Gadsden, president of the Jamaica NAACP, said he doesn’t have a problem with the buyback being held at any institution as long as it’s in Southeast Queens.
“I am thankful to the church for opening its door to the community,” Gadsden said, but he added that he thought it “disrespectful” that Norris had not been included in discussions regarding the program since he has been crusading for one to take place in the borough for the last few years.
Dan Andrews, the spokesman for Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, said she contributed $50,000 to have the one-time buyback because of concerns over increasing gun violence, particularly in the 113th Precinct, based in South Jamaica. The rest of the tab will be picked up by the Police Department, and that amount will depend on how many guns are returned.
Andrews said the NYPD chose the location because the layout meets security requirements and is within the 113th Precinct, ranked fifth citywide for the most shootings this year, and not for any other reason. He did not offer any further response to Norris’ comments.
All guns being brought to the church must be placed in a plastic or paper bag or box. The bank cards will be issued after the weapons are determined to be functional. People can bring in as many guns as they want, but they will only receive a payment for up to three guns.
Active or retired law enforcement officers and licensed gun dealers are not eligible to participate in the program. No current or retired law enforcement guns will be accepted. For more information regarding buyback, call 311.