A new bill introduced in the City Council last week would require the NYPD to host regular gun buyback programs throughout the five boroughs and provide the rewards.
The legislation was introduced by Councilmembers Carlina Rivera (D-Manhattan) and Rafael Salamanca Jr. (D-Bronx) last Thursday in the Committee on Public Safety.
But two of the panel’s Queens members say the programs are not enough, and one crime expert called them “political theater.”
The voluntary gun buyback events have become more popular in Queens and rewards for the firearms, which can be surrendered without providing identification and without penalties, range from $200 to a free iPad.
The program would take place in a different borough at least once each month, on a rotating basis, according to the legislation.
The NYPD already operates a Cash for Guns program as part of an ongoing effort to encourage people to turn them in anonymously.
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz’s office has held eight of the events in her time in the office, collecting over 400 firearms combined. A spokesperson from her office said it is reviewing the newly introduced bill.
“DA Katz appreciates that every gun surrendered during a gun buyback program may represent a tragedy averted and a potential life saved,” said the spokesperson.
A November event in Far Rockaway turned up 32 guns and in September, 62 were collected in Ozone Park.
But many question if the bill does enough to combat gun violence in the streets.
“I am in favor of the NYPD’s gun buyback program, but I also don’t think that the program goes far enough,” Councilwoman Joann Ariola (R-Ozone Park) said.
“Many of the guns that are turned in are old and inoperable, and wouldn’t be the kinds of weapons that we’d see being used in a crime,” she continued. “That said, getting any guns off of our streets is a good thing, and the program has had its successes in the past.”
Ariola sits on the Committee on Public Safety along with Councilman Bob Holden (D-Maspeth).
“Gun buyback programs are a noble endeavor, but our city is facing an illegal gun crisis,” Holden said in a statement.
“The best way to reduce illegal guns is for law enforcement to arrest those who use them and for our District Attorneys to prosecute and imprison them.”
Joseph Giacalone, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a retired NYPD sergeant who formerly lived in Queens, said it is all “political theater” and that studies have shown that gun buyback programs do not reduce gun crime.
“I wish the City Council would, instead of trying to do these gimmicks, do things that are actually beneficial, like getting Albany to change its stance on allowing people to walk free who are in possession of an illegal firearm,” Giacalone said.
“You’re not reaching the people that you need to reach and those are the young kids and the gangbangers and the drug dealers who have these guns,” he continued. “They’re not giving them up.”
Giacalone said the participants are older folks giving up their guns anyway and looking to cash in, not gangbangers settling for an iPad. “I mean come on, we’re just kidding ourselves with this stuff.”
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