Before antigun march, Kavanagh calls for a buyback


BY SAM SPOKONY  |  In advance of Thursday’s Unity Rally, a huge street march aimed at highlighting and combatting gun violence in the Lower East Side, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh said he thinks it’s time for another district attorney-sponsored gun buyback event.

“There’s definitely a need for more buybacks, and while they’re not the sole answer to this whole problem, I think there’s a general consensus between law enforcement officials and policy makers that they can be a very useful tool,” Kavanagh said in an interview on Tuesday.

The L.E.S. Unity Rally, which is being led on Jan. 31 by Borough President Scott Stringer, in association with Kavanagh, numerous other elected officials and a wide array of community organizations, was arranged in the wake of the murder of 16-year-old Raphael Ward, a Baruch Houses resident. Ward was fatally shot near the corner of Columbia and Rivington Sts. on Jan. 4.

“After an incident like that, it’s just a particularly good time to hold another buyback,” Kavanagh added.

Gun buyback programs allow residents to anonymously turn their firearms over to the New York Police Department in exchange for cash. The Lower East Side had its first such event last October, which was held at the Rutgers Houses Community Center and ended up taking 50 guns off the street. The program has already been in use for many years in other parts of the city.

At a Jan. 17 community antiviolence forum held at Grand Street Settlement — where Ward had been enrolled in recreational programs — a representative of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance told this newspaper that a second buyback event for the neighborhood is currently being considered.

Kavanagh stressed that he didn’t want to overstate the program’s value — given that other efforts, such as improvements in community outreach, gun control legislation and mental health treatment, remain priorities. But he said that his office has had several recent conversations with the D.A.’s Office about the possibility of another buyback.

He added that there hasn’t been any confirmation from D.A. yet, and that more funding will likely be required before such an event can be scheduled.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was the driving force behind the October buyback, but a spokesperson for him declined to comment on any plans to ask for another one. It seemed that the speaker had not been part of any of the talks between Kavanagh’s office and the D.A.

Instead, Silver sent a statement that pointed out gun control advocates’ recent success in passing statewide legislation, as well as focusing on the importance of schools and youth centers in the antiviolence effort.

Representatives of youth centers and other neighborhood organizations, along with the residents involved with those programs, will likely make up a large portion of those marching in the Jan. 31 Unity Rally.

“We must strengthen our commitment to education and to recreational programs, so we can help our young people make choices that have a positive impact on themselves and our community,” Silver said.