Continuing a statewide effort to make New Jersey safer by taking deadly firearms out of circulation, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced today that a state-sponsored gun buyback program for residents of Essex County will take place at six churches in five municipalities on February 15 and 16.
According to Chiesa, the Essex County buyback will be conducted in the same manner as successful, state-sponsored buybacks held in Camden in December, and in Trenton last weekend. Between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on February 15 and 16, 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.
Police officers will be stationed at each of the six churches to collect and secure guns. The churches 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, the Calvary Gospel Church in Newark, and the Paradise Baptist Church in Newark.
During a press conference today in which he announced the Essex County buyback, Chiesa explained that the Attorney General’s Office will again be paying for guns with criminal forfeiture monies obtained by its Division of Criminal Justice.
He noted that, in the most recent buyback in Trenton, more than 700 guns – nearly a quarter of all the weapons taken in – were illegal to own 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,”said Chiesa. “Through these gun buybacks, we are taking these dangerous weapons out of circulation, and we’re doing it at no cost to New Jersey taxpayers,” the Attorney General said.
During the two-day Camden County gun buyback held last December 14 and 15 in Camden city, more than 1,100 guns were taken in at two church locations. During the two-day Mercer County gun buyback held last January 25 and 26 in Trenton, more than 2,600 guns were turned in, including hundreds of sawed-off shotguns and nearly 1,000 handguns. In both buybacks, the vast majority of the weapons – more than 90 percent – were operable.
“We’ve been encouraged by the results of our two gun buyback events to date, both in terms of the number of guns we’ve taken in, and in terms of the enthusiastic support shown for the buyback initiative by New Jersey residents” said Chiesa. “We would love to replicate or improve on the success of our Camden and Trenton buybacks with this event in Essex County, 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.”
According to Chiesa, this third state-sponsored “Guns for Cash” buyback event is a cooperative effort involving the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, New Jersey State Police, the state Division of Criminal Justice, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, the faith-based community and the mayors and police executives of the five host municipalities. In addition to publicizing the gun buyback campaign through today’s press conference, the two-day “Guns for Cash” effort will be promoted through local radio, newspaper, bus transit and other advertising in and around Essex County.
Noting that their support and leadership are crucial to gaining neighborhood-level support for the gun buyback event, Attorney General Chiesa issued a special thank you today to the pastors of the six churches participating in the upcoming Essex County buyback.
He urged Essex County residents to take advantage of the money, and amnesty, being offered them to relinquish their guns. He also reminded residents that New Jersey has some of the nation’s toughest gun laws, and that the crime of Unlawful Possession of a Gun is a second-degree offense punishable by between five and 10 years in prison.
“As I’ve said repeatedly, we are not here to suggest that buying back people’s guns is the solution to our gun violence problem. However, it is an important part of a larger anti-gun violence strategy,” said Chiesa. “The people gathered here today have come together to work toward a common goal — to save lives and create safer neighborhoods by getting guns off our streets.”
“Regrettably, virtually every day we prosecute cases where someone decided to settle a score with a gun,” said Acting Essex County Prosecutor Murray. “In far too many of these cases, the results are deadly because so many people, particularly young people, have easy access to guns,” Murray said. “So far this year alone, we have already had nine homicides in Essex County and almost all of them involved guns. We know the gun buyback program will not end gang wars and gun violence, but we believe it is important enough to contribute some of our forfeiture funds to reduce the availability of illegal guns.”
The location of the six churches participating in the Feb 15 and 16 buybacks are as follows: St. Paul AME Church, 15-21 Sanford Street, East Orange; Christian Love Baptist Church, 830 Lyons Avenue, Irvington; Union Baptist Church, 12-14 Midland Avenue, Montclair; Calvary Gospel Church, 17 Lyons Avenue, Newark; Paradise Baptist Church, 348-352 15th Avenue, Newark; The Church of Epiphany, 105 Main Street, Orange.
Residents with questions about the gun buyback program can call the Attorney General’s Citizen Services unit at (609) 984-5828 or visit www.nj.gov/guns.