TRENTON – More than 2,600 guns were turned in by Mercer County residents during a state-sponsored gun buyback event held at two churches in Trenton this past Friday and Saturday, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced today.
According to Chiesa, a total of 2,604 firearms – including 700 guns illegal to own because they feature unlawfully high ammunition capacities, have sawed-off barrels or are otherwise modified — were turned in during the two-day buyback held at the Greater Mount Zion AME and Pentecostal Assembly of God churches.
The number of guns obtained in the Trenton/Mercer buyback more than doubled the number taken in last month during a similar, state-sponsored buyback in Camden city for all Camden County residents. At the time, the number of guns collected in Camden set a record for the state.
Chiesa said the outpouring by Mercer County residents determined to sell back their firearms exceeded his expectations, especially in light of the inclement weather. He noted that many people who sold back their guns were heard to say they welcomed the opportunity, because they feared their weapons might fall into the hands of children, or that they might be stolen and used in a crime.
The Attorney General acknowledged that gun buybacks alone can’t solve the complex, nationwide problem of gun violence, but he called them a crucial aspect of a larger strategy to get firearms out of communities and reduce the number of shooting deaths and injuries.
“I’m not here today suggesting buybacks are the singular answer,” Chiesa said during a press conference at the Trenton Police Department’s Property and Evidence Building. “However, there’s no question that buybacks are part of the solution, and we believe that they’re making a difference in New Jersey as evidenced by the 700 illegal firearms collected in this buyback.”
“Over the span of just two weekends in two cities,” Chiesa said, “we’ve taken upwards of 4,000 firearms – the vast majority of them operable — out of circulation. And if the turnouts we’ve seen, and the comments we’ve overheard, are any indication, New Jersey citizens are squarely behind this initiative. That’s because they recognize that having fewer guns on the streets can only help us to reduce the number of people being maimed or killed by gun violence.”
Among other weapons, the Mercer buyback brought in more than 100 sawed-off shotguns, nearly 1,000 handguns, four Tech-9 semi-automatic pistols, two Hi-Point semi-automatic assault rifles like those used in the Columbine shootings, a shotgun disguised as a nightstick, and an antique Uzi. Also sold back during the event were: two Thompson submachine guns, an Egyptian fully-automatic assault rifle, a World War II vintage Luger pistol, at least three M-1 carbine rifles, a 12-gauge shotgun with a “streetsweeper” drum cartridge capable of holding 12 rounds of ammunition, a shoulder-firing rocket launcher and a tear-gas/riot gun.
According to Chiesa, a total of $324,000 in State criminal forfeiture funds were used to buy back firearms – more than 90 percent of them operable — during the two-day Mercer County effort. He explained that, four hours into Saturday’s buyback activity at the two churches, residents began to receive vouchers after the on-hand supply of forfeiture cash was exhausted. The vouchers can be redeemed this coming Friday, February 1, from noon to 8 p.m., at the Duck Island office of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, located at 1589 Lamberton Road, Trenton.
The Trenton/Mercer gun buyback was a cooperative effort led by the Attorney General’s Office. It included the state Division of Criminal Justice, the New Jersey State Police, Trenton Police, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, Pentecostal Assembly of God Pastor Jose Rodriguez and Greater Mount Zion AME Pastor J. Stanley Justice.
Those who turned in their weapons during the “no questions asked” buyback were paid up to $250 per gun, and the maximum number of guns that could be turned in was three.
Attorney General Chiesa was joined for today’s press conference by state Division of Criminal Justice Director Stephen Taylor, Trenton Police Director Ralph Rivera, Jr., Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini, Jr., Mercer County Sheriff John A. Kemler, State Police Deputy Superintendent Louis Klock, Pentecostal Assembly of God Pastor Jose Rodriguez and Greater Mount Zion AME Pastor J. Stanley Justice. Chiesa said the Mercer buyback was another example of how partnerships often result in the most effective public safety initiatives.
“Just because the gun violence problem is big doesn’t mean that we’re going to throw up our hands, “said Chiesa. “The results of our buyback are collected here before you today, and I’d submit that they were well worth the effort.”
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