Council bill would require NYPD to establish monthly gun buyback programs. But how effective are they in limiting gun violence?

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A newly sponsored City Council bill stipulates that a gun buyback program would take place in a different borough at least once each month, on a rotating basis.
Photo courtesy Office of New York Attorney General Letitia James

Hoping to alleviate gun violence in the city, a City Council bill introduced by councilmembers Rafael Salamanca and Carlina Rivera would require the NYPD to implement monthly gun buyback programs.

Currently, anyone can surrender ownership of their gun to the NYPD for $200 through a Cash for Guns program. The NYPD allows those turning in their gun to do so anonymously.

The bill stipulates that the program would take place in a different borough at least once each month, on a rotating basis. Those surrendering guns can continue to do so anonymously and would not face criminal or civil penalties for gun possession, “unless such penalties are required by local, state or federal laws, rules or regulations,” the bill states.

The bill doesn’t have a set financial incentive for gun surrender.

While overall crime in NYC went up by 22% in 2022, shootings and homicides were down citywide, according to NYPD statistics. However, South Bronx precincts, such as the 40th and 41st, reported an intermittent rise in shootings over the past year.

Gun violence has a number of deleterious effects on public health, including a financial burden for families, with more than $40 million per year in hospital bills for victims of firearm-related incidents between 2010 and 2020, according to a report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Bronx and Brooklyn residents accounted for 71% of the city’s medical bills, according to the same report.

“Born and raised in the South Bronx, my community and I know too many people who have been taken from us much too early. The cause; the abundance of guns flooding our streets and our city,” said Salamanca, whose district includes the South Bronx.  “I am proud to sponsor meaningful legislation that will incentivize New Yorkers to turn in their guns through the implementation of monthly, citywide gun buyback programs. One less gun on our streets is one less gun that can turn our neighborhoods apart.”

Cities across the country have implemented buyback programs since the late 1970s.

Advocates for the bill cite that buyback programs are a part of multi-pronged approach to gun violence prevention, and that programming can be improved by working with community groups that are working to prevent violence, reevaluating the value of incentives for types of firearms.

“The most urgent part of a comprehensive solution to end gun violence is to get guns off the streets. As the Supreme Court has overturned New York’s gun safety legislation, it renews the urgency to work in coalition to reduce violence and the presence of guns in our neighborhoods,” said Rivera, who represents the East Village.

However, according to 2021 data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System, there’s been scant evidence that Gun Buyback Programs have led to a reduction in homicides or suicides.

The study found that crime, year after a buyback program was held, didn’t lead to more than 1% drop in gun crimes.

The study finds that buybacks often don’t offer enough financial incentives for resident to turn their guns in, and tend to take place in low-crime areas and collect firearms that tend to be older and less functional.

New York’s gun laws underwent significant change after the Supreme Court expanded Second Amendment protections in June, when their controversial decision struck down New York’s requirement on who can get an open-carry firearm permit.

This month, however, the Supreme Court twice blocked a request by firearm dealers to block laws regulating gun purchases in the aftermath of the its ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen last summer.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes. 

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