On Wednesday, town and law enforcement officials in Peekskill, New York, launched “Operation Safe Streets,” a program that provides a financial incentive — $500 — to residents who report to authorities individuals who are in the possession of an “illegal gun.”
In short, “Operation Safe Streets” is a toll free tip line that pays “tipsters” $500 if their information leads to the confiscation of an illegal gun. The number for this particular line is 914-468-4GUN.
At the press conference, Councilman Darren Rigger explained how the tip line will make the Peekskill community safer, which has approximately 23,000 residents.
“In this post-Newtown, Connecticut, world we live in, when communities want to make cities and their streets safer they cannot wait to get that done. They cannot wait for the state to come in and help, they cannot wait for the federal government to come in and help. Every community has to step forward and do it themselves and here in the City of Peekskill, we are ready to lead that fight,” Rigger said.
I was going to refrain from editorializing this story, but then I thought, “people need to be reminded of what an inane idea this tip line is.” So, here it goes…
First off, the premise of going after ‘illegal guns’ is stupid because guns aren’t the problem; it’s the criminals who own the guns that are the problem. I know, I’m tired of saying this and you’re probably tired of hearing it (and saying it yourself), but it’s true.
Think about it, one can put any gun or weapon in the hand of a law-abiding citizen and it won’t matter because he/she is not going to use the gun or weapon for nefarious purposes. Conversely, a criminal will use just about anything — a rock, a hammer, a coffee mug — to perpetrate a violent act. Therefore, what sense does it make to pursue the confiscation of an inanimate object as opposed to going after the individual who will likely use it to commit a crime?
So, the bottom line, this program focuses on the wrong target, i.e., the gun instead of the criminal. Now, this may not seem like a big deal at first, but it is.
See, in the wake of the passage of Gov. Cuomo’s New York SAFE Act, which outright bans magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition and which broadened the definition of what a so-called ‘assault-weapon’ is and also required the registration of these newly defined ‘assault weapons,’ there will be many otherwise responsible gun owners in possession of “illegal guns” (e.g., unregistered ‘assault weapons’) and “illegal gun-related accessories” (mags holding more than 10 rounds).
These gun owners are now the targets of ornery neighbors who have a score to settle, pro-gun control advocates who are trying to “save lives” by disarming responsible citizens, and other feckless community members that are willing to rat someone out to make a quick buck.
Now, there may be some who say that my logic is flawed and this is a gross misreading of the intent of the program. And to be honest, to some extent, I can identify with their objections. I think in theory a program like this makes sense because 100 percent of the time — again, in theory — it’s going to be a criminal that gets caught with a firearm and a noble steward of the community that gets paid $500.
However, in practice, in the real world and on the heels of the passage of the NY SAFE Act, I see it as being a very flawed and problematic crime fighting enterprise.
Plus, I think we have to ask ourselves is the program even all that necessary? Isn’t it already incumbent upon us as citizens to report criminal or suspicious activity to the authorities?
What’s also fascinating is that the New York state police already have a tip line set up for “illegal guns”: 1-855-GUNSNYS. Not surprisingly, this hotline was the brainchild of Gov. Cuomo. But, and to the point, even if one rejects everything I’ve just written, he/she has to admit that Peekskill tip line is redundant and unnecessary. Why waste city resources paying for something that the state government is already funding? Why not just promote the state-run hotline to the community?