The state-sponsored “Guns for Cash” buyback program held in Trenton on Jan. 25-26 netted a record number of weapons: 2,604.
In Camden County in December, more than 1,100 guns were turned in over two days.
Now the statewide effort to take firearms out of circulation is moving to Essex County, with buybacks set for Feb. 15 and 16 at churches in five communities, N.J. Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa announced last week.
Between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on those dates, Essex County residents can turn in up to three firearms of any type, “no questions asked,” and receive cash payment of up to $250 per weapon, Chiesa said.
Money for the buybacks is coming from criminal forfeiture monies obtained by the AG’s Division of Criminal Justice.
In Trenton, authorities reported, more than 700 of the guns – nearly a quarter of all those taken in – were illegal because they featured unlawfully high ammunition capacities, had sawed-off barrels or were otherwise modified.
“What we know is that there are just too many guns out there, including many weapons that are illegal and appear to be designed for only one purpose – to do as much damage and take as many lives as possible,” Chiesa said.
The churches that have agreed to serve as buyback sites are: St. Paul AME Church in East Orange; Christian Love Baptist Church in Irvington; Union Baptist Church in Montclair; The Church of Epiphany in Orange; and Calvary Gospel Church and Paradise Baptist Church, both in Newark.
Police officers will be stationed at each of the churches to collect and secure the weapons.
Details on the Essex buyback can be found at www.nj.gov/guns, which includes answers to frequently asked questions, including how to transport weapons to the collection sites:
“All weapons … shall be carried unloaded and contained in a closed and fastened case, gunbox, securely tied package, or locked in the trunk of an automobile ….”
In other words, don’t show up with a gun in your pocket or purse.
“Regrettably, virtually every day we prosecute cases where someone decided to settle a score with a gun,” said Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray. “In far too many of these cases, the results are deadly because so many people, particularly young people, have easy access to guns.”
The new year is only a bit more than a month old, as of last week, there had already been nine homicides in Essex County, “almost all of them” involving guns, Murray said.
“We would love to replicate or improve on the success of our Camden and Trenton buybacks with this event in Essex County,” Chiesa said, “but the fact is that this is not a competition. Any number of guns we take off the streets will be a win for public safety.”
In addition to www.nj.gov/guns, questions on the buyback can be answered by calling the attorney general’s Citizen Services unit at (609) 984-5828.
– Karen Zautyk