When she became the borough’s chief law enforcement officer, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz made the eradication of illegal guns a top priority in addition to prosecuting cases in the courts. On Saturday, Sept. 24, Katz and the NYPD partnered to take 62 guns off the streets during her administration’s seventh gun buyback event, which combined have removed nearly 400 illegal firearms.
“Every effort we make against the proliferation of gun violence makes an impact,” Katz said. “I am committed to investigating and prosecuting drivers of violence, but it’s just as important for all of us to work together as a community on meaningful solutions before such violence occurs. Each of the 62 guns recovered today is a potential life saved and a potential tragedy averted.”
The event took place at Calvary Assembly of God Church in Ozone Park. Members of the public were urged to surrender an operable weapon to receive a $200 bank card and an iPad. The event was 100% anonymous, with no questions asked. Individuals who turned in two or more operable firearms received an additional $250 gift card to Food Bazaar supermarket.
“This is just one step in combating gun violence,” Katz said. “First thing we need to do is prosecute the drivers of crime and make sure those for instance that are bringing in guns from the south and are selling them here in Queens County are found and prosecuted.”
New York State Attorney General Letitia James was a co-sponsor of the event.
“Taking guns off the streets is essential to preserving public safety and fighting crime,” James said. “Gun buybacks are one of the many measures we are taking to prevent potential tragedies and save lives. Every New Yorker deserves to feel safe in their neighborhood, and my office will continue to do everything to protect communities in Queens and across the state.”
Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar served as a co-sponsor.
“Each gun we recovered today is a possible tragedy averted and a precious life saved,” Rajkumar said. “Our city has already experienced 1,000 shootings this year. We must use every tool at our disposal to tackle this crisis. That is why I supported today’s gun buyback initiative in my district, which gets guns off our streets and will bring down the death toll of firearms.”
Assemblyman David Weprin said he was proud to co-sponsor Katz’s seventh buyback event.
“Gun violence is truly becoming an epidemic in our communities,” he said. “It’s important that we, as elected officials, take direct action and partner with community leaders to take guns off the street.”
Katz noted the variety of weapons that were handed in from rifles to miniature handguns.
”It’s interesting because some of them are so small, clearly those are the ones that we worry about the most,” Katz said. “They can be hidden. They can be on a hoodie. They can be in a jacket. They can be in a pants pocket, and so I think we worry about those the most.”
Not all of the firearms were turned in by active criminals, she observed.
“I think the wide variety shows that people probably have had guns in their houses for years sometimes and don’t really know how to get rid of them and by us taking them it allows for quite a few things,” Katz said. “Number one is that nobody’s going to use it on the street and number two is also making sure that if there happens to be, God forbid, a robbery in your house or apartment, that nobody gets that gun, too. Any gun we get off the street, any gun we get is one gun that hasn’t killed somebody, that hasn’t hurt somebody. It’s also one less shooter on the street.”
Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.