|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced today that more than 2,500 guns were turned in by Cumberland County residents during a state-sponsored gun buyback event held at three churches in the county this past Friday and Saturday.
According to Hoffman, a total of 2,509 firearms were turned in during the two-day buyback event held at the Word of Life Christian Worship Center in Vineland, the Cornerstone Community Church in Millville, and the St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Bridgeton.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman said the weekend outpouring by Cumberland County residents determined to sell back their guns was heartening, particularly in light of heavy rainstorms that swept the region last Friday.
The Acting Attorney General acknowledged that gun buybacks alone can’t solve the complex national problem of gun violence, but he called them an important aspect of a broader law enforcement strategy to get firearms out of communities and reduce the number of shooting deaths and injuries.
“It is truly sobering to view the array of lethal weapons collected in front of us here today,” Hoffman said during a press conference at the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office in Bridgeton. “It demonstrates, viscerally, why gun buybacks are important. Through these buybacks, thousands of firearms are being taken off the streets and melted down.
“A gun that is no longer in circulation – a gun that no longer exists – cannot be used to commit a crime, to shoot someone in the heat of an argument, or go off accidentally in the hands of a curious child,” Hoffman said.
“I am so pleased with the phenomenal turnout and amount of firearms turned in Cumberland County,” said Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae. “Any gun seized is one less weapon that may fall into the wrong hands or harm an innocent bystander. I would like to thank the Attorney General’s office for their financial support of this very important program. Finally, I would like to thank our Cumberland County law enforcement partners for lending assistance to make this event accessible to citizens throughout the entire county.”
The number of guns collected in Cumberland County represents the second highest number of firearms turned in since the Attorney General’s Office launched its continuing gun buyback initiative last December. To date there have been seven State-sponsored buybacks, resulting in the collection of more than 12,500 deadly firearms statewide.
A buyback held in Camden County in December yielded 1,137 guns. A buyback in Mercer County in January brought in 2,604 firearms. A February buyback held in Essex County brought in 1,770 guns. A buyback in Monmouth County in March yielded 1,581 weapons, and a second March buyback, conducted in Atlantic County, brought in 2,061 guns. A buyback in Passaic County in May resulted in the collection of 853 more firearms, and put the buyback initiative over the 10,000-gun mark.
This past weekend’s buyback in Vineland, Millville and Bridgeton was a cooperative effort involving the Attorney General’s Office, the Cumberland County Prosecutors Office, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, the state Division of Criminal Justice, the New Jersey State Police in Bridgeton and Port Norris, the Vineland, Millville and Bridgeton police departments, and the faith-based community in Cumberland County.
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. As with the previous State-led buybacks, guns were purchased using criminal forfeiture funds provided by the Attorney General’s Office through its Division of Criminal Justice. The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office also provided forfeiture funds. Altogether, $365,000 in forfeiture funds were expended during the Cumberland County buyback.
Among other firearms, the Cumberland buyback brought in more than 750 handguns, more than 1,000 rifles and shotguns and more than 100 assault weapons, as well as 259 illegal guns – guns that are unlawful to own because they feature prohibited magazine capacities or have been sawed-off or otherwise illegally modified.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman said the success of the Cumberland County gun buyback illustrates how effective genuine partnerships can be in law enforcement.
Noting that their leadership was pivotal in generating awareness of, and neighborhood-level support for, the buyback event, Hoffman extended a special thank you to Pastor Baron McCoy of the Word of Life Christian Worship Center, Pastor Ralph Graves of the Cornerstone Community Church, and Rev. Ellen Rutherford of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Bridgeton.
“We’ve never suggested that gun buybacks are a singular, stand-alone answer to the problem of gun violence,” Hoffman said. “However, there’s no question that buybacks are a worthwhile part of the solution, and they clearly have the support of many New Jersey residents. Not only do buybacks take guns out of circulation … they bring law enforcement and the community together to work toward a common goal -- making neighborhoods safer.”