|TRENTON – Continuing a statewide effort to reduce gun violence by taking deadly firearms out of circulation, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced today that a state-sponsored gun buyback program for residents of Atlantic County will be held at churches in Atlantic City and Pleasantville on March 22 and 23.
According to Chiesa, the Atlantic County gun buyback will be carried out in the same manner as prior successful, state-sponsored buybacks held in Camden, Mercer and Essex Counties. A fourth state-sponsored buyback, this one for the residents of Monmouth County, will take place this Friday and Saturday at churches in Asbury Park and Keansburg.
“To date approximately 5,000 guns -- the vast majority of them operable and capable of ending a life -- have been taken out of circulation as a result of these buybacks,” said Attorney General Chiesa. “That’s 5,000 firearms that will never kill or maim a police officer, an innocent bystander, a curious child or anyone else. I urge the residents of Atlantic County to support this effort to make New Jersey safer by coming out later this month and selling back their firearms.”
Between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on March 22 and 23, Atlantic County residents can turn in their firearms at two churches – the Second Baptist Church in Atlantic City, and the Faith Baptist Church in Pleasantville. Residents can turn in as many as three firearms of any type “no questions asked” and receive up to $250 per weapon, depending on the type of gun and its condition. Police officers will be stationed at the two churches to collect and secure guns.
Attorney General Chiesa said his office will again be paying for the gun buyback with criminal forfeiture monies obtained by its Division of Criminal Justice. The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office is also contributing forfeiture dollars to the buyback effort.
Chiesa noted that, in the three prior state-sponsored buybacks, upwards of 1,000 guns turned in were illegal because they featured unlawfully high ammunition capacities, had sawed-off barrels or were otherwise modified. He recalled that the most recent buyback in Essex County netted a number of extraordinarily lethal weapons including an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle similar to one used in the Newtown, Connecticut mass shootings.
“We recognize that these buybacks aren’t a singular, one-stop solution to the gun violence problem. However, they are important because, as we all recognize, there are just too many firearms circulating out there and too many innocent people dying or being critically wounded as a result,” said Chiesa.
“Going back to each of the three prior gun buybacks we conducted, it was startling, once all was said and done, to look at the amount of weaponry we’d taken in,” Chiesa added. “The arrays included piles of handguns, sawed-off shotguns, rifles, and other firearms. It is troubling to consider how much lethal firepower is circulating out there in our communities at any given time, just waiting to fall into the wrong hands, or to be used for the wrong purposes.”
“Law enforcement agencies on the state, county and municipal levels have partnered with community leaders to remove these weapons from our homes and the homes of our friends and neighbors, where they are more likely to be instruments of tragedy than to serve any legitimate purpose,” said Atlantic County Prosecutor James P. McClain. “This program is an excellent example of how law enforcement and local leaders can work together to make our community a safer place to live and a safer place to visit.”
During a two-day Camden County buyback held last December 14 and 15 in Camden city, more than 1,100 guns were taken in at two church locations. During a buyback in Mercer County last January 25 and 26 in Trenton, more than 2,600 guns were turned in. During the Essex County buyback held Feb. 15 and 16 in Irvington, Montclair, Newark, East Orange and Orange, more than 1,700 guns were collected.
“We’ve been encouraged by the results of our three buyback events so far – both in terms of the number of guns collected, and the enthusiastic support shown by residents of the host counties,” said Attorney General Chiesa. “Obviously we’d like to replicate the success of our prior buybacks here in Atlantic County, but this effort isn’t about numbers, and it’s not about competition. Any guns we take off the street will be a win for community safety.”
The state-sponsored Atlantic County “Guns for Cash” buyback event is a cooperative effort involving the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, New Jersey State Police, the state Division of Criminal Justice, the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office, the Atlantic City Police Department, the Pleasantville Police Department and the faith-based community in Atlantic County.
In addition to today’s announcement, the two-day “Guns for Cash” event will be promoted through local radio, newspaper, bus transit and other advertising in and around the county.
Noting that their support and leadership are crucial to gaining neighborhood-level backing for the buyback event, Attorney General Chiesa offered a special thank you today to Rev. Milton Hendricks of the Faith Baptist Church of Pleasantville, and Rev. Collins A. Days Sr., of the Second Baptist Church in Atlantic City.
While encouraging Atlantic County residents to take advantage of the money and amnesty being offered to relinquish their guns, the Attorney General also reminded residents that New Jersey has some of the nation’s toughest gun laws. He said the crime of Unlawful Possession of a Gun is a second-degree offense punishable by between five and 10 years in prison.
“The people and agencies working together on this buyback initiative have come together for a common goal -- to save lives and create safer neighborhoods by getting guns off our streets,” said Chiesa. “I hope the residents of Atlantic County will join us and support this effort by trading in their firearms for cash when we come to Atlantic City and Pleasantville in two weeks.”
The Faith Baptist Church is located at 829 Tilton Road in Pleasantville. The Second Baptist Church is located at 110 Rev. Dr. Isaac S. Coles Plaza in Atlantic City.
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.