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 Passaic County will be held at churches in Paterson and Passaic on May 3 and 4.
According to Chiesa, the Passaic County gun buyback will be carried out in the same manner as prior successful, state-sponsored buybacks held in Camden, Mercer, Essex, Monmouth and Atlantic Counties.
“I urge the residents of Passaic County to join us in making their communities safer by trading in their guns for cash,” Chiesa said during a kick-off press conference today at the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office. “Through this buyback initiative, we’ve now taken out of circulation more than 9,000 firearms – more than 95 percent of them operable. That’s 9,000-plus guns that can never be stolen and used in a drive-by shooting, go off by accident and kill an innocent person, turn an argument into a tragedy, or claim the life of one of our brave police officers.”
Between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on May 3 and 4, Passaic County residents can turn in their firearms at two churches – the Gilmore Memorial Tabernacle Church in Paterson, and the St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Passaic. 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 Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office is also contributing forfeiture dollars to the buyback effort.
Chiesa noted that, of the weapons turned in during five prior state-sponsored buybacks, a total of more than 1,100 guns were illegal because they featured unlawfully high ammunition capacities, had sawed-off barrels or were otherwise modified. He said approximately 4,500 of the guns collected were handguns.
“We recognize that these buybacks aren’t a singular, stand-alone answer to the gun violence problem. However, they are an important part of the overall solution. As we all recognize, there are just too many firearms circulating out there and too many innocent people dying or being critically wounded,” said the Attorney General.
“The citizens of Passaic County strongly support efforts to take guns off our streets. The community is safer, and the risk that innocent people will die is effectively reduced,” said Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes. “In 2012, the City of Paterson had 88 non-fatal shooting incidents, and in the County of Passaic there were 18 homicide victims that died as a result of being shot. As Prosecutor, I have seen the availability of guns within our communities as a substantial contributing factor to the senseless gun violence. If we can ‘buy back’ these guns that are accessible, we prevent their availability and hopefully prevent tragic gun violence.”
During a state-led buyback in Camden County last December, more than 1,100 guns were collected. During a buyback in Mercer County in January of this year, more than 2,600 guns were turned in. A February buyback in Essex County netted more than 1,700 guns. A buyback held in Monmouth County in early March yielded 1,581 guns, and a buyback in Atlantic County March 22 and 23 resulted in more than 2,000 guns being turned in.
The state-sponsored Passaic County “Guns for Cash” buyback event is a cooperative effort involving the Attorney General’s Office, the state Division of Criminal Justice, New Jersey State Police, the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office, the Passaic Police Department, the Paterson Police Department, the Paterson Police Cease Fire Unit, the faith-based community in Passaic County and a variety of community volunteers. 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 Pastor Thomas Farrar of the Gilmore Memorial Tabernacle Church, and to Rev. Brando Ibarra of St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church.
While encouraging Passaic 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 create safer communities and a better quality of life for law-abiding citizens,” said Chiesa. “One way or another, it is our commitment to get guns off the streets and significantly reduce the number of lives being lost to senseless gun violence.”
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.