There are 79 illegal weapons off the streets of Queens as a result of a gun buyback event co-hosted by Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, New York State Attorney General Letitia James and the NYPD on Saturday, June 12.
In return for an Apple iPad — while supplies lasted — and a $200 bank card, gun owners were encouraged to surrender their operable firearms at St. Mary Magdalene Roman Catholic Church in Springfield Gardens between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., no questions asked. Additionally, owners of BB guns or air pistols received a $25 bank card, and those in possession of a rifle or shotgun were handed a $75 bank card.
Standing behind three tables loaded with guns ranging from semi-automatic firearms, revolvers, single-shot and semi-automatic rifles to BB guns and imitation pistols, Katz emphasized the importance of such events given the steep rise in violent crimes and shootings — not only in Queens, but across New York City.
Katz urged that the gun violence in New York City must stop, stressing that the message to the younger generation had to be that this can’t and won’t be “the new norm.”
“It has to be unacceptable that people cannot walk their children to school, that grandparents are worried about going to any of their friends’ homes, that people would go out at night and have to worry about being an unintended target,” Katz said.
She added that the partnership with the attorney general’s office and the NYPD was vital to get firearms off the street “so that these guns right here, they are never going to hurt anybody.”
James said she was glad to see that 79 weapons were off the streets and “will no longer hurt children, hurt senior citizens purged individuals innocently who are walking the streets of New York City.”
The attorney general pointed out that 90 percent of firearms in New York City come through the Iron Pipeline from states with lax gun laws along Interstate 95.
She commended the state legislature for passing the gun manufacturer bill, which would allow her office to go after gun manufacturers who fail to take steps to prevent the unlawful sale of firearms in New York. According to the bill, “those responsible for the illegal or unreasonable sale, manufacture, distribution, importing or marketing of firearms may be held liable for the public nuisance caused by such activities.”
Fearing that it would be a “long, hot summer,” James reiterated that she was committed to “go after the individuals who are responsible for gun violence and those individuals who put guns in the hands of criminals.”
“We’ve got to do all that we can do to reduce the gun violence in the streets of New York City and across the state of New York,” James said.
Looking at the number of weapons that were turned in, NYPD Community Affairs Chief Jeffrey Maddrey said, “It’s imponderable when you think about the amount of damage and destruction that these weapons can do out here in our communities, and unfortunately, we’re living through it.”
According to the latest NYPD crime statistics, so far, the city has seen 602 shooting incidents in 2021, a 68.2 percent rise compared to the same time period last year. There have been 687 New Yorkers injured or killed due to gun violence, compared to 409 for the same time period in 2020.
Maddrey explained that while it was the job of law enforcement to get weapons off the street, it also was a moral and ethical responsibility. He reminded the community that it was everyone’s obligation to get guns off the street “because we can not allow children, babies, our babies to be harmed in communities by gun violence.”
“We should all feel comfortable walking outside of our homes or spending time with our families at barbecues, or going anywhere in the city, and not feel threatened by gun violence,” Maddrey said.
Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman and Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers both emphasized the importance of community outreach.
Brooks-Powers, whose district includes Edgemere, where 10-year-old Justin Wallace was shot and killed on June 5, expressed that his tragic death, “reinforced the need for the community to come together to get these guns off the streets.”
She was happy to see how many people surrendered their weapons and said she was looking forward to continuing her partnership with Hyndman, Gateway JFK, the DA’s office and AG James “to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to create a safe environment where our children can grow and live and thrive.”
Saturday’s buyback event, which was co-sponsored by Gateway JFK, St. Luke Cathedral of Laurelton, St. Mary Magdalene, and the New York City Police Foundation, was the fourth of Katz’s administration. Combined, they have collected 285 guns.