By Jeanine Russaw
Published on Long Island Report
On Saturday at Grace Cathedral International, 75 guns were taken in only one hour into the three hour anonymous collection beginning at nine AM. Working in tandem with Nassau County police, District Attorney Kathleen Rice and County Executive Ed Mangano, the church on Jerusalem Avenue has just completed its fourth gun buyback.
“I don’t want individuals [perpetrators] to think that they can at random come into [our] community, just start shooting guns and there is no response from the righteous people,” said Robert Harris, Bishop of Grace Cathedral. “As a result, we will do marches and have programs in our community to let them know we don’t tolerate it.”
The formation of the Nassau County gun buyback program since Kathleen Rice assumed the role of District Attorney has eliminated 3,000—plus—firearms from the streets of Uniondale.
Using asset forfeiture money, the county is able to fund the program with zero cost to its taxpayers.
“We don’t use taxpayer money, we work together with the police department, and most importantly we work with faith-based leaders like Bishop Harris,” Rice said. “They give credibility to our program and ensure that we get as many weapons of the streets as possible.
The major concern for the gun-owning residents of Uniondale is the possibility of being the victim of a burglary. While Nassau County crime rates have diminished by 77 percent in recent years, local thieves are more interested in stealing weapons than anything else.
Detective Sergeant Pat Ryder of the Nassau County Police Department attributes break-ins to be one of the main causes in weapon related crimes and accidents.
“Not every gun becomes a crime gun. Those guns that are left in the home that becomes burglarized may then get taken and used again in a crime later on,” Ryder said.
No questions were asked of individuals selling their firearms—from handguns to assault rifles—and the media was prohibited from approaching them. Those with weapons in the line around the block from the church took advantage of the right to conceal their identity.
“The number one priority is getting guns off our streets,” Rice said in regards to the lack of repercussions associated with the anonymity of the buyback. “If we allow for people to do this anonymously, we will get a larger group of people willing to bring their weapons in.”
The buyback is only part of the effort to reduce weaponry in the community, and is part of a much larger plan to educate the public on safety issues. The ‘shot spotter’ program exists in Roosevelt along with a number of youth gun safety programs. According to Rice, strict enforcement for violations involving weaponry is still at the top of the county’s agenda.
“The package of putting these programs together leads to a safer community,” said Ryder of the police enforcement program.