In an effort to curb gun violence, the state Attorney General’s office and local law enforcement are joining to hold gun buybacks in the city in early March.
Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa [pictured above, at podium] announced the program at a press conference in the city this morning.
“Like all of you here today, I remain troubled by the level of gun violence in New Jersey and throughout the nation,” Chiesa said. “Sadly, many of the victims of these attacks are often innocent people.”
The gun buyback is “not a singular answer” to issues of gun violence in the state, but part of law enforcement’s overall strategy, Chiesa said.
The gun buybacks will take place on Friday, March 8, and Saturday, March 9, at Shiloh Community Fellowship Ministry, at 142 Dewitt Ave., from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. At the same time, another buyback program will take place at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Keansburg.
This is the fourth in a series of buybacks the Attorney General’s office started planning in November 2012, just before a mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., brought gun violence to the forefront of the national dialogue.
Since planning began, buybacks have been held in Camden, Mercer and Essex counties, Chiesa said. In Camden, officials obtained 1,100 guns in two days. The Mercer County buyback secured 2,600 firearms. And in Essex county, another 1,700 guns were taken off the street.
“That’s a total of 5,400 guns taken off the street,” Chiesa said, “no longer able to hurt police officers, no longer able to hurt innocent people, and no longer able to terrorize communities.”
People can bring their guns to the buybacks and receive $50 to $250 for each gun, depending on quality, no questions asked, Chiesa said.
The money for the guns comes from funds seized from violent offenders during illegal activity, Chiesa said. Gun buybacks are held at no cost to taxpayers.
Guns brought to buybacks must be unloaded, he said. Police officers will be present to ensure safety. Those bringing the guns can remain anonymous.
“Because of the law enforcement presence, we’ve had very smooth efforts in collecting and securing the guns,” he said.
After the buyback concludes, officials check to see if any guns were stolen. Stolen firearms are returned to their rightful owners. The rest of the guns are destroyed, he said.
Chiesa was “overwhelmed” by the amount of guns collected in the three previous buybacks, he said.
Chiesa chose to hold a gun buyback program in Asbury Park after speaking with Chris Gramiccioni, acting prosecutor of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.
“We’d like to remind gunholders that New Jersey has some of the nation’s toughest gun laws,” Chiesa said. “Illegal possession of a firearm is a second-degree offense carrying a sentence of five to 10 years in prison.”
Chiesa said local clergymen, such as Rev. Mark White of Shiloh Community Fellowship Ministry, are crucial in running gun buyback programs.
“By opening their churches and lending their stature they have in their community to this program, they make it a success,” he said.
[Photo above, right shows firearm seized from the streets of Asbury Park in 2012.]