Nearly 5,000 weapons were taken off streets in New Jersey following a two-day gun buyback program last weekend in Newark, Camden and Trenton.
A total of 4,775 guns were turned in for cash, according to Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and Acting U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick. Union County residents were encouraged to participate in the Newark program.
Turned in were 1,973 handguns, 1,142 shotguns and 1,025 rifles. A total of 129 assault weapons were received and received the highest payout of $200 each at buyback events at Antioch Baptist Church in Camden, the Friendship Baptist Church in Trenton and the Greater Abyssinian Baptist Church in Newark.
More guns were collected in this two-day gun buyback event than across the state in a single year through law-enforcement arrests and seizures. The highest number of guns ever seized by law enforcement in one year in New Jersey is 4,079 in 2014.
“This was a collaborative effort in every respect, and it demonstrates once again that we are exponentially more effective when we work together,” said Porrino. “Through this initiative, thousands of unwanted firearms have been taken off the streets of our state and will soon be destroyed. That’s a step forward in our continuing effort to curb gun violence.
“Again, a gun that has been melted down can never be used to kill somebody, it can never be used to rob or threaten someone, and it can never end up, tragically, as the instrument of a curious child’s accidental death.”
“Fewer guns on the street means less violent crime and accidental deaths,” Fitzpatrick said. “This effort, along with our coordinated prosecution of firearms offenses — including 19 cases that were recently adopted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution under federal statutes — demonstrate our shared commitment to use every strategy, investigative technique and resource to protect the people we serve.”
Porrino and Fitzpatrick said the gun buybacks are part of a broader law-enforcement approach to quelling gun violence, which includes New Jersey’s tough “no-bail” stance on gun crimes, and a working partnership between state and federal law enforcement focused on achieving the most effective possible prosecutions of gun offenders.
Earlier this year, the acting U.S. Attorney and Attorney General resolved to make use of the stricter penalties available for many gun crimes under federal law through the Triggerlock program, in which appropriate cases are referred by state and local authorities and adopted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for federal prosecution.
Since May, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has adopted 19 cases for prosecution under Triggerlock. The most serious gun offenses under federal law carry potential penalties ranging from 15 years without parole to life in prison.
Those accused of gun crimes as well as certain repeat offenders also are being kept off the street until trial, with a judge getting the final say.
Among the defendants ordered detained since May who prior to the recent changes may have been released is Edgar Cochran, who allegedly threatened a woman with a gun at a tavern in Linden. Police arrested him at his home and recovered a .22 caliber revolver.
In other cases, defendants who were arrested with drugs and guns in their vehicles were ordered detained without bail pending trial.
As part of the gun buyback program last weekend, residents were invited to turn in up to three firearms of any type “no questions asked” to earn a maximum of $600. Gun owners were paid $100 for turning in a rifle or shotgun, $120 for a handgun or revolver, and $200 for an assault weapon.
The payments were provided through state criminal forfeiture funds — monies seized by law enforcement from gun criminals, violent street gangs, drug-dealing networks and other offenders. Overall, the state expended $481,620 in forfeiture money on the buybacks.
In Camden, 2,167 guns were turned in for a total of $222,500 in criminal forfeiture dollars. In Trenton, there were 1,735 firearms turned in for a total of $167,560, and in Newark, 874 guns were turned in for $91,560.