By Megan Taylor
Two Saturdays ago, I went to Immaculate Conception Church on Gun Hill Road to witness and report about the NYPD’s gun buy-back program. NYPD asked me and several other members of the press who showed up to leave, saying our presence would discourage people from turning in their guns.
I decided to make the most of the situation, and spent the next few hours talking to people I met around Gun Hill Road and Jerome Avenue. I wanted to know if people in the community thought the program would reduce gun violence.
Out of more than 20 people I spoke with, the majority hadn't heard about the program, despite efforts by Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson, NYPD, churches and the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers to publicize the program. Almost everyone thought the program, which ended up taking 987 guns off Bronx streets, was a wasted effort. A minority were optimistic about its effects.
One man, after repeatedly stating that he didn't own a gun, also said that he didn't think the program would help reduce crime in the Bronx.
“Times are hard and people are getting hungry. People will use their guns to get money. I don't think the gangs will turn in their guns. They [NYPD] say no questions asked but I don't believe that.”
Nestor Cruz, who works at the A&O Surgical Supply store on Gun Hill Road was optimistic. He had heard of the program, and thinks every little effort will help.
“I think it will be effective. It depends on the area. A lot of people don't want to get rid of their guns depending on where they live, if they have a family.”
I met AJ outside a T-Mobile store.
“I could bring you to a spot where you could buy a gun right now. Guns are easier to get than weed. I could show you a 12-year-old that has a gun. It's [the gun buy-back program] as ineffective as Crime Stoppers (the NYPD’s crime anonymous crime hotline) and the D.A.R.E. (the youth anti-drug campaign) program. I don't think the recession will get people to turn in their guns, when they can go rob two people and make more money.”
Shamsuddin A. Abdul-Hakim Bey, a mental health counseling student, thought that people with prior records and people who were afraid that they were putting their loved ones in danger by owning a gun would be the most likely to turn in their guns. Bey cited paranoia about the police as a deterrent to people turning in their guns.
So what is the solution to gun violence in the Bronx? Crime goes down a little every year, but the weekend of buy-back program there were 13 shootings in the borough.