Oona Milliken | [email protected]
In the dining room of Junior’s Restaurant & Bakery this past week, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced that the District Attorney’s office would be offering $400 to buy illegal guns and assault rifles at a Brooklyn church on Saturday, Dec. 16. For every additional gun, owners will be offered $200, as well as $25 for rifles, shotguns, imitation pistols, air guns and non-operable weapons. The event is intended to provide a space for illegal gun owners to relinquish their firearms without punishment. After collection, the guns will be taken out of commission and melted by the NYPD.
Gun violence has gone up seven percent in New York City between 2011 and 2020, according to statistics collected by Everytown. Gonzalez said the Brooklyn DA has created a comprehensive strategy for reducing these statistics, including prosecuting illegal gun possession, targeting gangs in Brooklyn as well gathering intelligence on repeat offenders of crimes and deaths involving firearms. The gun buyback, the third event of its kind that the District Attorney’s Office has hosted, is just one of those methods.
“It’s very hard to get rid of a gun. You can’t just call the police department and say ‘Hey, I’ve got a gun and I’d like to surrender it,’ Gonzalez said. “[The buyback] allows you to surrender [illegal] guns to make sure that they don’t get used in the commission of a crime, and it will help save lives.”
Critics have questioned if gun buybacks are effective in reducing gun violence. The buyback programs only target illegal firearms and are voluntary, with a limited turnout. However, last year’s December buyback for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office collected 200 firearms. On Saturday, they only gathered 50, according to NY1, but Gonzalez said Brooklyn DA has taken 400 guns off the streets in the past two years through the program.
The announcement was held at Junior’s in Downtown Brooklyn, owned by restaurateur Alan Rosen. Rosen said he wanted to host the press conference after observing violent and deadly incidents involving guns in the borough, such as the toddler who was killed by a stray bullet in Brooklyn in 2020, and a 12-year old boy who was fatally shot in the back of a car while eating in November 2023.*
“A study released just this week found that New York ranks as the third most anxious state in terms of gun violence. Let that sink in for a minute. We are on edge. It is obviously on top of everyone’s mind, even more so with the holiday season upon us. I am one of those anxious New Yorkers,” Rosen said. “My holiday wish and prayer is that we make this the safest city in the country. That would be the best present I could ever hope for for all Brooklynites, New Yorkers and of course, my friends and family here at Junior’s.”
Dr. James A. Thornton, a pastor for the Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Flatbush, said he was delighted to be a partner in helping get guns off the streets of Brooklyn. Thorton urged parents and community members to spread the word to bring illegal firearms to the church on Saturday.
“I want to appeal to parents that if you know that you have people in your home with guns, Saturday is the time to come and turn it in safely without any consequences whatsoever. And so I’m appealing to everyone, wherever you are to let’s get these guns off the street. Let’s make a difference. This is the season for Christmas. And there are three words for Christmas: hope, peace, joy, and love.”
Carlos Velasquez, from the Police Athletic League, a youth development organization focused on mentoring relationships with young people and the police, said that they have lost several members due to guns in the past year but hoped that would change in the future.
“Unfortunately, the Police Athletic League has known the repercussions of violence. We’ve lost five young people this year to violence in our programs, and the work is continuous and we try the best that we can do inside our doors,” Velasquez said. “Programs like this and supporters like Mr. Rosen, DA Gonzalez and Pastor Thorton is what makes the difference.”
*Disclaimer: Rosen misidentified the victim as a young girl during the press conference.