Police and Community Gun Buy Back Program Getting good Results in City
The Restoration Temple Assembly of God may not have the cache’ of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Riverside Church or the St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Manhattan but the Brooklyn church is worth its weight in gold by serving its community with aplomb. It showed its worth as a religious sanctuary and community linchpin in two ways over the past week-end. On Sunday worshippers flocked to its pews to praise God and engage in fellowship. The day before it was a center where the owners of illegal handguns turned in their weapons, no questions asked. And in some cases they received $200 in exchange.
But why was this effort so significant? Almost 100 illegal weapons, 85 to be exact, were dropped off at the church and the collection brought a sigh of relief from City Councilmember Jumaane Williams, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, both of whom helped to engineer the gun buck back program in that predominantly Black neighborhood.
“The Brooklyn DA’s office is a great community partner in our efforts to reduce the violence and slash the spate of killings in our communities of color, indeed, in every part of Brooklyn,” was the way Councilmember Williams of East Flatbush put it. The buyback program is proving to be an effective way of ridding the streets, schools and homes of deadly weapons and in the process it is saving saving the lives of innocent men, women and children. Less than a month ago, a young mother of several children was gunned down in Brownsville in Brooklyn as she tried to shield school children from the madness perpetrated by a youth gang who didn’t set out to kill the mother but wanted to showoff to his peers how powerful a man he was. Now, he faces a good chance of spending at least 20 years behind bar for the shooting.
The automatic weapons turned in at churches, community facilities and neighborhood centers in the past two-to-three years mean that deranged, begrudged and lawless men and a handful of women don’t have the ability to wreak havoc on our streets by cutting down innocent folks. What’s scary about all of this is that while we are correctly fighting international terrorism of the kind that took place on 9/11 a decade ago, the terror and the agony it leaves in its wake are homegrown.
They are coming from within the society and usually not from any foreign born person in our midst. Instead, it comes from a person known the victim, often the family next door or even a son or daughter. Empowered by an AK-47 and other high-powered killing machines, the lawless users underline a hard truth which society itself fails to confront and that is most threats to the country are not from the Jihadists or the extremists but from American citizens with guns in their hands. “Cautious citizens may push for better street lighting, but they have more to fear from a spouse, ex-spouse, friend or co-worker than from a stranger on the street,” warned Russell Jacoby, a historian at the University of California, Los Angeles and author of the “Bloodlust: On the Roots of Violence from Cain and Abel to the present.”
Undoubtedly, the pastors of our neighborhood churches, preach regularly about the killing of Abel by his brother Cain as recorded in the bible. But what in today’s world fail to see is that what’s happening today on our streets and in our homes are but an extension of that biblical homicide. The major difference is the gun which emboldens weaklings, giving them a false sense of power is the weapon of destruction.. That inevitably catches up with and sometimes leads to their deaths at the hands of other relatives, the criminal justice system or even at their own hands. The ready availability of cheap hand guns made in the United States and Europe has turned Caribbean island-nations into killing fields.
Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas, Guyana, St. Kitts-Nevis and to a lesser extent Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and Antigua are cases in point. They have some of the world’s highest homicide rates calculated on the basis of the size of their individual populations. What a tragedy has befallen these beautiful but once tranquil spots which are blessed with highly intelligent and hard-working people but which are being spoiled by the pent-up anger and frustration of a few criminals. But the U.S. and the Caribbean aren’t alone. Several months ago, Brazil launched its own gun buyback program in a determined effort to get more than a million guns off the streets by the end of the year. The campaign was launched after 12 children were shot and killed in a school in Rio de Janiero by a lone gunman who then turned the weapon on himself.
Two years ago the Brazilian authorities were able to get 1.1 million firearms through a similar buy-back-program. Consider what could have happened in Norway, how that massacre could have been avoided if the guns were turned in or confiscated before the tragedy struck. Councilmember Williams, DA Hynes, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Bishop Cecil Riley, New York State Senator Malcolm Smith of Queens, and a host of others in Brooklyn, the Bronx and other parts of the City who have persisted with this buyback program have earned our thanks because you never know how the weapons out there would be used to rub out, scare, or injure someone near and dear to us.
Interestingly, the gun program is proving to be far more effective than the nefarious and highly discredited stop-and-frisk scheme which the New York Police Department is using to reduce the availability of guns. Commissioner Kelly should learn from the gun buy-back how the NYPD can join hands with the churches and others to rid the streets of weapons while at the same time establishing good relations with neighborhoods.