We all know that America has a serious gun violence problem. While mass shootings have become chillingly common, I believe we are on the verge of a seismic shift in how we respond to them.
Here are a couple of examples. Walmart is putting profits aside to halt the sale of certain kinds of ammunition, and some firearms. Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling has described gun violence as a public health crisis and is calling on other health care leaders to join his effort to fight it.
And we are doing all we can on the local level. As county executive, my most important job is keeping our residents safe. I’m proud that, thanks to the tireless work of our brave men and women in law enforcement, Nassau County has hit historic lows in major crime. Our success in bringing crime down is also due to our commitment to community policing, which emphasizes building trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve and protect.
But we can’t be complacent when it comes to protecting residents from gun violence. Remember, every day, 100 Americans are shot and killed and hundreds more are wounded by guns.
That’s why we’re taking a comprehensive and aggressive approach to keep residents — whether in schools, houses of worship, libraries, businesses, or their own neighborhoods and homes — safe from gun violence.
As of the beginning of the school year, every school building had received a security assessment from the Nassau County Police Department, ensuring that administration, staff and students were ready for worst-case scenarios. The RAVE app, which instantly delivers data to our 911 dispatchers and first responders, has been installed in all school districts, helping us shorten response time. We’ve armed police vehicles with breaching devices to make sure officers can get to anybody trapped behind a wall.
We have also worked closely with faith leaders to ensure maximum protection in churches, synagogues and mosques. Nassau County Police and the Department of Homeland Security have trained key personnel in our municipalities, helping them devise plans and minimize damage in case of an active shooter.
It’s also important to recognize that gun violence isn’t just mass shootings or crime in the streets. Firearm suicide claims the lives of over 22,000 Americans every year, including over 1,000 children and teens. In fact, two-thirds of all gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides. That’s 61 a day. And it’s getting worse: over the past decade, the firearm suicide rate in this county has increased by 19 percent.
These numbers tell us one thing: the fewer guns getting into the wrong hands, the safer residents will be.
In March, working with Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, we held a gun buyback event in Uniondale, at which a total of 366 handguns, rifles and assault rifles were handed in. Since 2008, Nassau County has taken over 4,500 guns off the streets through gun buybacks.
We’re building on that success and holding another gun buyback this Saturday at Union Baptist Church, at 24 Clinton C. Boone Place in Hempstead, from 9 a.m. to noon. Rifles can be turned in for $100 cash, handguns for $200, and assault rifles for $400. Weapons must be operable, and guns must be unloaded and put in plastic or paper bags or shoeboxes. Buybacks are no silver bullet, but they keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.
I’m proud to work with local gun-safety advocates like Moms Demand Action, Long Islanders for Gun Safety, and Michael and Linda Beigel Schulman, whose son Scott was murdered in the Parkland, Fla., shooting. We will continue to fight to increase awareness locally, and work with state and federal lawmakers to pass common-sense gun laws.
Let’s do all we can to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them and prevent senseless pain and death. We owe it to our children to fight for a future free from gun violence.
Laura Curran is the Nassau County executive.