Buybacks and community activism among Katz’s plan of action to address gun violence

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said she would work to expand gun buyback programs if elected as Queens' next district attorney
File photo

With less than two months to go until the Democratic primary for Queens district attorney, Borough President Melinda Katz, one of the seven candidates on the ballot, rolled out her plan of action to address the growing threat of gun violence in the borough.

Amidst an alarming increase in murders locally, and a failure of leaders in Washington to pass gun control legislation, Katz’s plan takes a comprehensive look at the chronic problem.

The policy proposals addressing gun violence are the latest in a series of detailed plans to reform the DA’s office released by Katz, including plans to better protect workers, hold real estate developers and predatory lenders accountable, and defend women’s rights, her campaign said.

“The sad truth is that the daily presence of gun violence in communities of color largely goes overlooked, or worse, is accepted as normal,” Katz said. “Even in New York, where we have some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, thousands of lives every year are tragically affected by murders, assaults, domestic violence, hate crimes, and suicides that involve a gun. But getting guns off the streets is only part of the solution.”

Katz detailed several new ways the DA’s office could be better equipped to keep the borough safe. Her plan includes a new emphasis on empowering community groups that implement the Cure Violence mode, including a pledge to devote civil asset funds to expand these programs into new neighborhoods and schools.

A 24/7 gun buyback program allowing any resident to walk into any precinct at any time to turn in a gun. Katz proposes new education programs and policies to give family members the option to safely get rid of unlicensed guns they may find in their home without fear of punishment and a pledge to aggressively crack down on gun trafficking with better coordination and data sharing between jurisdictions.

“As District Attorney, I’ll continue my work treating gun violence as a public health issue, spreading Cure Violence programs to the neighborhoods that need them most, and instituting new policies to address gun trafficking and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they’re designated to protect.”

Queens activists working to reduce gun violence in the most vulnerable neighborhoods in the borough voiced support for Katz’s plan, including LIFE Camp founder Erica Ford, the Jamaica-based organization that implemented the Cure Violence model in 2012.

“Melinda has been the ideal partner in our fight to end violence in our community,” Ford said. “She takes the time to listen to those who work every day on the ground to keep our streets safe, and as a result understands the full scope of the issue. This plan is a reflection of her years of experience tackling gun violence, and we’re confident she’ll help us make even more progress as District Attorney.”

Since 2005, the King of Kings foundations in Far Rockaway has taken a school/community-based approach to gun violence prevention. In 2010, co-founders Lance and Todd Feurtado played a leading role in bringing Operation Snug/Cure Violence to New York State and implementing the program in the Redfern Community House Development which went a year without shooting or killings.

“Reducing gun violence isn’t just about taking guns off the street, kids need after school programs to give them alternatives and opportunities,” the Feurtados said in a statement. “People need ways to remove guns they find in their homes without fear of punishing their family members. Leaders in the community need resources and partners to help them change the culture around violence. Everybody doesn’t need to be put in jail. A District Attorney that understands all of this, and is willing to listen to our ideas, will make our neighborhoods safer. Melinda Katz has shown time and again she will be that kind of DA.”

In the last 14 years, The King of Kings Foundation has helped change the lives of more than 30,000 students and young adults in Hollis, Jamaica, Springfield Gardens, Far Rockaway, Corona, Queensbridge, and many other communities around the borough.