TRENTON -- Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced today that more than 1,700 guns were turned in by Essex County residents during a state-sponsored gun buyback event held at a total of six churches in five Essex municipalities this past Friday and Saturday.
According to Chiesa, a total of 1,770 guns – including approximately 70 firearms that are 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. Sites for the buyback included St. Paul AME Church in East Orange, the Christian Love Baptist Church in Irvington, the Union Baptist Church in Montclair, The Church of Epiphany in Orange, the Calvary Gospel Church in Newark, and the Paradise Baptist Church, also in Newark.
The number of guns obtained in the Essex County buyback brings to approximately 5,400 the total number of firearms collected to date as a result of three state-led gun buybacks. More than 1,100 guns were obtained during a two-day buyback held in Camden city for residents of Camden County last December, and more than 2,600 firearms were obtained during a buyback held last month in Trenton for Mercer County residents.
Chiesa said this past weekend’s strong turn-out by Essex County residents was encouraging, and that it provided further evidence that citizens throughout New Jersey are behind the State’s effort to rid their communities of dangerous guns.
“By any measure, this past weekend’s gun buyback was a success, and another step forward in our continuing effort to make New Jersey residents safer by taking dangerous guns out of circulation,” said the Attorney General during a press conference at the Newark Police Department Communications Building.
“Since we began this buyback program,” Chiesa said, “we’ve taken more than a 5,000 firearms off the streets. That’s 5,000 weapons that can never be used to commit a crime, terrorize someone, or maim or kill an innocent person.”
As was the case in both Camden and Trenton, Chiesa noted, many people who sold back their firearms in Essex County last weekend were heard to say they welcomed the chance to get rid of their guns because they feared the weapons might be stolen and used in a crime, or might fall into the hands of children with tragic results.
The Attorney General acknowledged that gun buybacks alone can’t solve the complex and multi-faceted problem of gun violence, but he called them an important aspect of a larger strategy to get firearms out of communities and reduce the number of shooting deaths and injuries.
“There is no question that buybacks are part of the overall solution, and we believe they’re making a difference in New Jersey -- as evidenced by the 70 illegal firearms collected in this Essex buyback, and the hundreds of illegal guns we’ve taken in since the program began,” Chiesa said.
Among other weapons, the Essex County gun buyback brought in more than 1,100 handguns and 31 semi-automatic assault weapons. Among the semi-automatics was an AR-15 rifle – a similar type of weapon used in the Newtown, Connecticut shootings, two Uzis, several nine millimeter, 40 caliber and 380 caliber handguns. In addition, numerous sawed-off shotguns were turned in.
"In the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, day in and day out, we deal with the painful consequences of too many disputes being resolved with guns. We believe this gun buyback effort gets guns off the streets and potentially out of the hands of those who might do harm," said Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray.
According to Chiesa, a total of $242,225 in State and County criminal forfeiture funds were used to buy back firearms – about 95 percent of them operable -- during the Essex County effort.
The Essex buyback event was a cooperative effort involving the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, the East Orange, Irvington, Montclair, Newark and Orange Police Departments, New Jersey State Police, the state Division of Criminal Justice, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, the faith-based community and the mayors of the five host municipalities.
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.