NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Collaborative Policing Susan Herman today told a crowd of anti-gun violence advocates that gun buybacks—a program long employed by New York police and politicians to exchange firearms for cash in hopes of preventing shootings—do little to reduce the number of weapons on city streets.
Speaking at an event on gun policy at Hunter College hosted by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Ms. Herman argued that buybacks tend attract people crossing state lines in search of a quick buck, not city residents. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton appointed Ms. Herman, a criminal justice professor at Pace University, to help oversee Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new “neighborhood policing” program earlier this year.
“It has minimal impact,” she said. “Typically when we do gun buybacks, actually they’re often people from other states coming to give us—Pennsylvania, New Jersey people—coming into New York to sell their guns. That’s a good thing, it’s good for America to get more guns off the street. It doesn’t particularly reap a lot of benefits here in New York.”
Public Advocate Letitia James, whose former Brooklyn Council district has long suffered from outbreaks of gang violence, was quick to back up Ms. Herman’s assertions. She also said that, in her experience, the buybacks rake in weapons from financially strapped senior citizens.
“I’ve been involved in gun buybacks for ten years. Most of the guns that we’ve been able to recover are guns that are owned by grandmothers and great-grandmothers; they hide them under their beds,” she said. “People tell me they need gun buybacks 12 months out of the year. They need it for food more than anything else.”
As an alternative to periodic buybacks, Ms. Herman instead recommended outreach to mothers, sisters and grandmothers who know that a young man in their home has a gun, and encouraging an open-door policy at the local precinct where they can turn over the weapon with no questions asked. She recommended that adults call the stationhouse to inform them they are en route with a firearm to surrender, and get the name of the officer to whom they speak.
“That should happen any time she has an awareness of that. Any time,” Ms. Herman said. “Nobody asks who you are, where you got it, anything. You should be able to turn in, get rid of the gun in your house any time you want.”
Jean Shafiroff, the Manhattan philanthropist at the event whose proposal for a holiday gun buyback prompted Ms. Herman’s remarks, told the Observer she remained undeterred in her idea. She said she hoped to roll out a novel program in Harlem this winter where residents could exchange their weapons for Christmas gifts.
“We can do something where, if you bring a gun, you get a brand new toy,” she said. “We have to make it safe for everybody. I know these children, their families don’t want their children to have guns, the children don’t want guns. There are a few of them that have them.”