by DANIEL BEEKMAN
Two hours into a NYPD/Bronx District Attorney gun buy-back program on Sunday, April 25, a hapless Bronxite turned in a live grenade. Police evacuated the New Gospel Temple Church of God In Christ. According to Bishop Rodney Canion, the grenadier meant no harm. NYPD bomb specialists carried the explosive off-site.
“He found the grenade cleaning out his garage,” Canion said. “His grandfather was in the military. He heard about the gun buy-back program and thought, ‘Why not?’”
Canion’s Claremont Village church – one of six to participate in the buy-back – collected 40 guns between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., when the grenade appeared. Borough-wide, the program netted 987 guns, including 296 revolvers, 242 rifles, 174 semi-automatic pistols and 163 shotguns. The weapons will be melted down to make wire hangers. Last October, a Harlem buy-back yielded 744 guns. Police gathered 352 on Staten Island and 1,108 over two days in Brooklyn.
“This was the most successful gun buy-back program to date,” NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said of the Bronx swap. “We’re beating swords into plowshares.”
Police questioned the grenadier, then let him free.
“They wanted to know if he had more,” Canion said. “He was good-natured about it.”
Participants handing over handguns, rifles and shotguns received one $200 ATM card per gun – no questions asked. Those handing over air pistols and BB guns received $20.
The NYPD has pulled 4,538 guns from the street since it began the church buy-back program in 2008. But a rash of Bronx shootings April 24-25 left two men dead.
A friend accidentally shot and killed 19-year old Juan Acevedo two blocks from Yankee Stadium. Five men shot and killed a 25-year old on E. 235th Street in Wakefield.
“We collected 987 guns, but when I read the newspaper Monday morning, there it was, gun violence in Bronx County again,” said Pastor Jay Gooding of the 49th Precinct Clergy Council and the Fellowship Tabernacle Church of God in Christ on Gun Hill Road.
Gooding and Canion hope the NYPD and Bronx DA will hold another buy-back soon. According to Gooding, the borough is safer today than it was 30 years ago. His greatest fear? Gun-toting youngsters – 14-year old gangster-wannabes who consider gun violence a way of life.
“It wasn’t a shock to see the guns,” Canion said. “Think about how many are left. At least we made a dent.”