TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced today that, as a result of last weekend’s two-day gun buyback in Middlesex County, the State has now taken nearly 16,000 firearms off the streets of New Jersey.
Middlesex County residents turned in a total of 1,844 guns last weekend during a Friday-Saturday buyback held at three locations in the county: Sacred Heart Parish Hall in New Brunswick, the Sayre Woods Bible Church in Old Bridge, and Cathedral International in Perth Amboy.
As a result of the Middlesex buyback and nine previous state-led buybacks, a total of 15,958 firearms have been removed from circulation – the vast majority of them fully-operational and capable of ending a life with one shot. Save for a few weapons deemed to have historic interest, which are sent to the State Police Museum, all firearms taken in through the buybacks are destroyed.
“It is a credit to the residents of Middlesex County, as well as the other counties we’ve visited, that so many guns have been collected through these buybacks,” Acting Attorney General Hoffman said during a press conference at the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office Training Center in Edison. “Thanks to the strong desire of people here and throughout the state to make their homes and neighborhoods safer, there are nearly 16,000 fewer deadly firearms circulating out there – nearly 16,000 fewer ways to maim or kill someone.”
Among the weapons collected in last weekend’s buyback were more than 800 handguns, 352 rifles, 344 shotguns and 60 assault weapons.
The buyback also yielded 170 illegal guns – guns that are unlawful to own because they feature excessively high ammunition capacities or have been illegally modified.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman said he was especially pleased that, through the 10 buybacks conducted across New Jersey to date, the State has managed to take a total of more than 7,300 handguns out of circulation, as well as nearly 1,900 illegal guns.
Middlesex County Acting Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey thanked the members of law enforcement who assisted with the collection of guns and offered special recognition to the clergy who granted access to their churches as a safe location for residents to surrender weapons.
“I wish to commend the New Jersey State Police, the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Mildred Scott, the law enforcement officers from Perth Amboy, Old Bridge, New Brunswick, Carteret, East Brunswick, Edison, Highland Park, Metuchen, Monroe, North Brunswick, Piscataway, Sayreville, South Brunswick, South Plainfield and Woodbridge, as well as the employees from the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office for their help on this important program. Of course, special thanks goes to Sacred Heart Parish in New Brunswick, the Sayre Woods Bible Church in Old Bridge, and Cathedral International in Perth Amboy,” Acting Prosecutor Carey said.
“The amount of lethal firepower removed from our communities through these buybacks has been truly impressive. But the numbers tell only part of the story,” said Hoffman. “From what we’ve observed and what we’re hearing, host neighborhoods have experienced a very positive ‘buzz’ from being involved in the buyback events. Residents have expressed the feeling that they’re making a real difference. Communities have been working together toward a common goal. That’s an outcome that tends to get less attention than tables piled high with guns, but it’s still very real.”
A total of approximately $266,250 in state and county criminal forfeiture funds were spent in Middlesex County to buy back firearms. Among the weapons turned in were an M1 military-style rifle, a Plainfield Arms carbine rifle, a TEC 9 semi-automatic handgun, a TEC 22 semi-automatic handgun and two AR-15 rifles – a similar type of weapon to that used in the Newtown, Connecticut shootings.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman noted that buybacks alone won’t solve the complex and multi-faceted problem of gun violence. However, he called buybacks a vital component of a broader strategy that also includes taking a tough prosecutorial stance on gun crimes, proactive public awareness efforts and – most significantly – aggressive, state-led anti-violence initiatives.
Consistent with this approach, Hoffman also announced a new round of criminal indictments this morning charging a total of 51 defendants with illegally trafficking or possessing firearms under an aggressive, targeted initiative aimed at gun violence. Under the initiative, the State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice are focusing on gun violence through strategic investigations designed to seize existing weapons in violent areas, disrupt the supply chain of weapons flowing into those areas, and prosecute criminals involved in the illegal sale and possession of weapons.
The initiative was launched last year and, to date, a total of 124 defendants have been indicted in connection with 184 illegal guns.
The indictments announced this morning, which involve a total of 67 firearms, were returned over a two-week period in September. The indicted defendants include numerous suspects who allegedly were trafficking illegal guns to gang members and other criminals in New Jersey cities. Most of those indicted are subject to the strict sentencing requirements of the Graves Act, which imposes mandatory terms of parole ineligibility of up to five years.
The cases announced today include “Operation Ohio,” in which 11 men from Ohio and New Jersey were charged with selling 18 guns on the streets of Newark and Irvington as part of a conspiracy to illegally traffic firearms – including assault rifles – into New Jersey from Ohio.
The Middlesex County gun buyback event was a cooperative effort involving the Attorney General’s Office, the state Division of Criminal Justice, New Jersey State Police, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office, the New Brunswick, Old Bridge, and Perth Amboy police departments, the faith-based community, and a variety of community volunteers.
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.
Noting that their support and leadership were crucial to gaining neighborhood-level backing for the buyback, Acting Attorney General Hoffman especially credited Sacred Heart Parish Hall in New Brunswick, the Sayre Woods Bible Church in Old Bridge, and Cathedral International in Perth Amboy for the success of the buyback event.