New Jersey residents had the chance to trade their guns for cash during a two-day gun buyback program in Trenton this past weekend. The program spent about $324,000 to purchase 2,600 firearms, 700 of which were illegal weapons.
Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa announced the figures Tuesday, standing at a podium behind tables holding piles of rifles, shotguns, and assault weapons that had been exchanged for cash.
The Trenton gun buyback program surpassed one in Camden that yielded more than 1,100 weapons in December. Camden has long been one of America’s most dangerous cities and had the highest crime rate in the US in 2008.
The Trenton gun buyback awarded residents of Mercer County up to $250 per firearm, depending on the type, legality and condition. The program had a budget of $100,000, but spent more than three times that much due to the large turnout and now has to determine how to pay the other $224,000. Once the money ran out, residents who turned in their guns were given vouchers for the value of their firearm.
Chiesa expressed satisfaction with the number of illegal weapons the program procured through its program. More than 100 of the 700 illegal weapons were sawed-off shotguns, which are easily concealed and frequently used in robberies and shootings.
“Even if I just got 700 illegal weapons, I would think it was a success,” Chiesa said.
The program also procured about 1,000 handguns, four Tec-9 automatic pistols, two Thompson machine guns, at least three M-1 military-style riddles, a “Street Sweeper” with a drum canister for shotgun shells and tiny revolvers, reports the Star-Ledger.
“93 or 94 percent of the guns you see here are operation guns,” the attorney general said.
The program pledged not to question anyone on how they obtained their weapons, making it impossible to tell how many of the guns were taken off of the Trenton streets. But Chiesa said it will likely reduce gun violence in a city that has recently seen numerous robberies and shootings conducted with illegal weapons.
After authorities check to see if any of the weapons have been reported lost or stolen, they will be destroyed.
Trenton has about 20 homicides each year, which doesn’t come close to the more than 500 that took place in Chicago last year. But with 2,604 less firearms on the city’s streets, New Jersey officials hope to see a reduction in crime.
“They say if it saves one life it’s worth it,” State Sen. Shirley Turner wrote in a letter to Chiesa. “What if it was your life?”