TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced today that a total of 1,599 guns were turned in by Hudson and Union County residents during a state-sponsored gun buyback event held at six churches in the two counties this past Friday and Saturday.
According to Hoffman, a total of 1,010 firearms were turned in by Union County residents at three churches in that county – New Zion Baptist Church in Elizabeth, Morning Star Community Christian Center in Linden, and the Shiloh Baptist Church Annex in Plainfield. A total of 589 guns were turned in by Hudson County residents at three churches there, including Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church in Bayonne, Evangelismos Greek Orthodox Church in Jersey City and Saint Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Union City.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman called the buyback a success, not only because it pushed to more than 14,000 the total number of guns collected through the State’s buyback initiative so far, but because it showed the continuing desire of New Jersey residents to be part of the solution to society’s gun violence problem.
Hoffman acknowledged that buybacks alone won’t solve the complex national problem of gun violence. However, he called them a vital component of a broader law enforcement strategy – one that includes vigorous anti-gun-trafficking enforcement efforts – to reduce the number of shooting deaths and serious injuries.
“The buyback effort here in Hudson and Union Counties was a success by any measure. First and foremost, we helped make communities safer by getting lethal firearms off the streets – including many weapons that are illegal to own because of their extraordinary destructive power,” Hoffman said during a press conference at the Hudson County Plaza in Jersey City.
“Through this effort,” Hoffman added “we also reached a new milestone this past weekend -- 14,000 firearms taken out of circulation since we began the statewide initiative. That’s 14,000 fewer weapons out there to be used in a crime, or to claim someone’s life in a tragic accident.”
Among other weapons, the two-day buyback in Hudson and Union Counties brought in a total of 713 handguns, 12 assault weapons, and more than 150 illegal guns – guns that have been sawed-off or otherwise modified, or guns that are unlawful to own because of their excessively high ammunition magazine capacities.
In Union County, the illegal guns included two MAC-10 assault weapons with high-capacity magazines, an SKS assault rifle similar to an AK-47, and an MP45 automatic pistol with large-capacity magazine. In Hudson County, the illegal weapons included an Uzi, a Savage Arms 12-gauge shotgun, and a Universal Firearms M1 30-Caliber military-style rifle.
“It is truly sobering to see the array of deadly firearms collected here today,” Acting Attorney General Hoffman said. “It brings home, viscerally, why these gun buybacks are so important, and why everyone who participated here in Hudson and Union Counties has made a difference. Were it not for our buyback, all of these firearms – the vast majority of them operable – would still be out there with the potential to be stolen, to fall tragically into the hands of a curious child, or to be stashed in a central location and used by criminals as so-called community guns.”
The Hudson-Union buyback event was a cooperative effort involving the Hudson and Union County Prosecutor’s Offices, the Union County Department of Public Safety, the Union County Police Department, the state Division of Criminal Justice, the Hudson and Union County Sheriff’s Offices, the New Jersey State Police, the Bayonne, Jersey City, Union City, Elizabeth, Linden and Plainfield police departments, CarePoint Health and the faith-based communities in Hudson and Union Counties.
“The success of the Attorney General’s gun buyback is a direct result of the Hudson County community’s commitment to combat gun violence,” said Hudson County Acting Prosecutor Gatano T. Gregory. “The Office is grateful to its dedicated partners in the faith, civic, governmental and law enforcement sectors who contribute unselfishly to programs such as this in an effort to secure the safety of the people of the county.”
“There was some serious firepower turned in last weekend. The owners that turned in unwanted guns absolutely did the right thing,” said Acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park. “By participating in the program, these residents ensured that their guns can never be used to harm a fellow person.”
The Attorney General’s Office launched its continuing gun buyback initiative last December. A buyback held in Camden County in December yielded 1,137 guns. A buyback in Mercer County in January brought in 2,604 firearms, and a buyback in Essex County in February brought in 1,770 guns.
A buyback in Monmouth County in March yielded 1,581 weapons, while 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 a June buyback in Cumberland County yielded 2,509 guns.
Those who turned in their weapons during last weekend’s “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 Hudson and Union County Prosecutors’ Offices, along with the Union County Sheriff’s Office and Union County Police Department also provided forfeiture funds. CarePoint Health also donated funds to support the buyback.
For the two-day event, a total of $228,725 was expended -- $145,950 in Union County, $82,775 in Hudson County -- to buy back guns. The State contributed $139,550 in forfeiture funds, CarePoint Health $50,000, Union County $30,000 in forfeiture funds and Hudson County $10,000 in forfeiture funds.
Noting that their hospitality, leadership and support was pivotal in the success of the buyback effort, Acting Attorney General Hoffman extended a special thank you to the presiding pastors of the six host churches in Hudson and Union Counties. He said the opportunity for law enforcement, the faith-based community and the community at large to work together is one of the most important aspects of the gun buyback program.
“There’s no question that reducing the number of guns out there is the chief benefit of a buyback, but the story doesn’t end there,” said Hoffman. “Through this buyback program, churches, businesses, neighborhood leaders, elected officials and everyday citizens are coming together with law enforcement to work toward a common goal.”
“What we’ve found is that these buybacks both energize and galvanize communities, and they help to build a bond of trust between neighborhoods and law enforcement,” Hoffman said. “All of this can only help as we move forward and, in the future, continue to address not only the gun violence issue, but other public safety concerns as well.”