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Boro must have gun buyback program to ensure safety of its youth

No matter how safe the city has become, there will never be a totally safe city as long as illegal guns are available on the streets, and they are abundantly. The senseless killings that continue to take the lives of our children are the painstaking evidence of this fact.

The continuing carnage on our streets requires a war on illegal weapons. Some of the previously held “gun buyback” programs have offered a glimpse into the amount of firepower that exists in city neighborhoods.

More gun buyback programs, cooperation from the district attorneys and support from the NYPD and greater support from the public are the requirements for these programs’ success and helping to get illegal weapons off our streets. While no single effort will eliminate illegal guns from city streets, the more these programs 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 and weapon make and model. The Bullet Bill also amended the city code to raise the minimum age limit for purchasing a rifle or shotgun and ammunition from 18 to 21.

Based on NYPD statistics, the 2008 gun buyback programs held in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island have proven successful in taking illegal guns off city streets. In Brooklyn, 1,108 guns were retrieved from two gun buy−backs in July and September. The Manhattan program yielded a collection of 744 guns in October and the Staten Island program collected 352 weapons in just six hours.

This summer, we witnessed firsthand the grim affect of what stray bullets do to innocent bystanders, such as 14−year−old Brandon Bethea in the Rockaways. She is one of many who have lost their lives to senseless violence that has left so many of our youth lying lifeless on pavement across Queens. Already in 2009, we have witnessed countless gunplay in Queens. It seems as if we cannot read a newspaper or turn on our TVs without being subjected to a shooting death daily.

This is why I have been fighting hard to ensure Queens sponsors this program. The 31st City Council District has been no stranger to gun violence. A gun buy−back program in Queens is imperative to stem the continuing violence directed toward our youth. We hear daily of indiscriminate gun−related incidents in Queens. In a time where 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 President Barack 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 these crimes from occurring in our community. I look forward to continuing to work with District Attorney Richard Brown and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to ensure this program is successful.

James Sanders

City Councilman

Laurelton

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