2009-02-13 / Columnists

It's My Turn

Why Does Queens Need a Gun Buy-Back Program?
By James Sanders Jr.City Councilman

James Sanders Jr. James Sanders Jr. No matter how safe New York City has become, there will never be a totally safe city as long as illegal guns are freely available on the streets, and indeed illegal guns are abundantly available on our streets. The senseless killings that continue to take the lives of our young children are the painstaking evidence of this fact. The continuing carnage on our streets requires an all out war on illegal weapons. Some of the previously held "Gun-Buy Back" programs have offered a near glimpse into the vast amount of firepower which exists in neighborhoods throughout the city.

More "Gun Buy-Back" programs, more cooperation from the district attorneys, more support from the NYPD, and greater support from the public are the basic requirements for the success of these programs and helping to get illegal weapons off our streets. While no single effort will eliminate illegal guns from the streets of New York City, the more of these programs that take place, the more we will provide residents with opportunities to turn in guns that they would like to remove from their homes.

In 2003, I sponsored the "Bullet Bill" (Intro 144-A), which requires ammunition dealers to collect more information from buyers, including proof of permit, caliber, make and model of the weapon. The "Bullet Bill" also amended the city code to raise the minimum age limit for purchasing a rifle or shotgun and ammunition from the age 18 to 21.

Based on NYPD statistics, the 2008 Gun Buy-Back Programs held in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island have proven a success thus far at taking illegal guns off the streets in New York City. In Brooklyn alone, 1,108 guns were retrieved from two Gun Buybacks held in July and September. The Manhattan Program yielded a collection of 744 guns in October and the most recent Buy- Back Program which was held in Staten Island, their first ever in the borough, 352 weapons were collected in just six hours.

This summer we witnessed firsthand the grim effect of what stray bullets do to innocent bystanders, such as 14-year-old Brandon Bethea in the Rockaways. She is just one of many who have lost their lives to senseless violence that have left so many of our young people lying lifeless on pavements across our borough. Already in 2009, we have witnessed countless incidents of gunplay in Queens. It seems as if we can't read a newspaper or turn on our television set without being subjected to a shooting death daily.

This is why I have been fighting hard to ensure the borough of Queens sponsors this program.

The 31st Councilmanic District has been no stranger to gun violence such as have other neighborhoods across the city. A "Gun Buy-Back" program in Queens is imperative NOW, to stem the continuing violence directed towards our youth. We hear daily of indiscriminate gun-related incidents in Queens. In a time when the NYPD is doing more with less we must do everything to ensure that we are doing our part as citizens and elected officials to ease their burdens. As our new President Obama said, "Everybody will have to contribute to help things get better."

Therefore, it is our responsibility to ensure we use every angle and all resources available to us to stem the occurrence of these crimes in our community. I look forward to continuing to work with District Attorney Brown and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to ensure this program is a success.

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Mr Sanders, If we could just stick to facts. Every state (35+) that has passed a concealed weapons permit law has seen a decrease in crime. You just let the criminals have guns and you wonder why the crime rate is so high. You would probably like to be like Boulder Colorado where they almost allowed voting on a proposal where the police do not carry guns.

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