On Dec. 16, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and other community leaders will hold a pre-holiday gun buyback in Flatbush in an effort to make the holidays safer for residents and visitors.
The buyback will be held on at Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Little Haiti from from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m., and local gun owners will be able to turn in their guns for $400 each, no questions asked.
A similar gun buyback took place in Bed-Stuy in December of last year, where a record number of about 200 firearms were turned in in exchange for $500 and iPads. The event resulted in the most surrendered weapons in New York City’s history, including several assault rifles, 125 handguns and five “ghost guns,” — unregistered guns assembled with 3-D printed parts or parts purchased online.
Junior’s Restaurant, which doubles as a non-profit and participates in various philanthropic pursuits throughout the year, is sponsoring the buyback. The funds used to purchase the guns will come from both the DA’s budget and the restaurant. Gonzalez said the pay is less this year because of inflation and so that they can make sure they have enough to cover between 250 and 300 guns without having to turn anyone around.
“In just two years, in a very simple, voluntary way, we’ve taken 400 guns off the streets of Brooklyn, and I’m convinced that that has saved lives,” said Gonzalez. “I don’t know [how many guns] we’re going to get, but, my guess is that we won’t do as well as we did last year. We’re offering, $400 for the gun, which is a lot of money during the holidays. I hope people will surrender.”
In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned New York’s strict gun laws and made it easier for people to obtain a permit to carry handguns in public spaces — with some restrictions. But, according to Gonzalez, public spaces in general are not hot spots for gun violence.
“What I’ve seen is that it’s the same three or four precincts that have been problematic in terms of public safety and gun violence for years,” said Gonzalez. “Neighborhoods like the 75th Precinct, and places like Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville, those are the places in Brooklyn that lead in gun violence, and so, we have to continue to invest in those neighborhoods.
The collect will take place in the Flatbush, which falls under the jurisdiction of the 67th Precinct, where there have been about 34 shootings in the last year, per NYPD data.
“We have to continue to think about gun violence as a symptom of people who are living with way too much trauma and are not taking human life as seriously as they should be,” said Gonzalez. “I think that if we continue to work with young people to show them that possessing a gun is going to either get them shot or killed or sent to prison, that we can convince more and more young people in these neighborhoods that have been struggling with gun violence not to carry. That’s what we’ve been trying to work on in Brooklyn, working with violence interrupters and doing programming, for young people in those highly-impacted neighborhoods to put their gun down. And I think we’ve made progress, the number of shootings is way down from just three years ago.”
Gun ownership skyrocketed by as much as 70% across the United States during the pandemic, according to the DA. Studies show that ownership also increases in election years.
“Everyone had a lot of anxiety,” Gonzalez said. “A lot of people felt that they needed guns to protect themselves, and so there was a lot of legal gun ownership. I see that trend continuing, but, there has to be more education. Having a gun law doesn’t keep you safer from illegal guns in a lot of ways. It further jeopardizes your safety. When we look at people who have been involved in shootings in New York City, a large percentage of them are people who had prior arrests with guns. People who are in possession of guns are often victims of gun crime. Targeting that population is what we need to do to keep our city safe.”
The DA said that his team has seen more and more 3-D printed, home-made guns made from polymer, which is “really scary,” he said.
“They get them through metal detectors,” he said. “That’s why they have these new detectors now that look for the shape of a gun. It’s more like an X-ray, but the old metal detectors, which still a lot of people use, if it’s a completely ghost gun, we’ll be able to get snuck by because there’s not enough metal in it to cause it to register. These gun buybacks are an important way for the community to get involved.”
As is always the case, no ID will be needed to participate in the buyback.
“We do these buybacks in churches, in communities, so people know that there are no tricks, that you can surrender the gun and you’re not going to be arrested,” Gonzalez said. “People feel really afraid and frustrated with random gun violence. This a real opportunity for people not to feel like they’re victims, but feel like they can be proactively involved in helping to find solutions to keeping our community safe. No community doesn’t want a buyback.”