County to hold gun buyback program next month

Burlington County Times 

By Danielle Camilli Staff writer | Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013 12:00 am

 

MOUNT HOLLY — Burlington County is planning to buy back guns from residents next month in a program that will allow owners to turn in their weapons anonymously for cash.

Sheriff Jean Stanfield announced the gun buyback program Wednesday night at the Burlington County Board of Freeholders meeting.

County residents can turn in as many as three guns with no questions asked on Saturday, April 13, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Abundant Life Fellowship Church off Route 130 in Edgewater Park.

Gun owners will be paid up to $150 per weapon, Stanfield said.

The program is sponsored by the Sheriff’s Department, Burlington County Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi and New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa, and is modeled after a series of other public buybacks around the state in recent months aimed at reducing gun violence by taking firearms out of circulation.

It is the first in a suburban area of the state and unlike the other state-led buybacks, the county is taking the lead with this program, officials said.

Since December, the state and its partners have collected nearly 7,100 weapons, including hundreds of illegal guns, during buybacks in Camden, Essex, Mercer and Monmouth counties.

“Every gun we get off the street is one less opportunity for a child to be harmed, an accidental shooting to occur, or a weapon to be stolen and used in a crime,” Stanfield said.

The program will be funded through state and county forfeiture funds, and officials are working to raise more money for the effort, the sheriff said.

“We’re looking at a good opportunity to get guns off the streets and out of homes, especially guns that aren’t being used,” Stanfield said. “We want to make sure that a child won’t discover a gun, or that a house won’t be burglarized and a gun be taken and then used in a crime. Our goal is one less gun is a big step in the right direction for us.”

In previous buyback programs, officials have found that most of the weapons turned in have been operational and that many are illegal. They have included sawed-off shotguns, rifles and handguns.

Burlington County will pay $150 for assault weapons, $100 for operable handguns, and $50 for rifles, shotguns and inoperable firearms, officials said. Community partners Abundant Life, STOP Drop Your Gun Inc. and Servicios Latinos de Burlington County will help the county get the word out to the public, Stanfield said.

Mercer County netted a record 2,604 weapons during its state-led program, but ran out of cash for participants and had to give out vouchers. Stanfield said the county does not anticipate giving out vouchers for its program.

Last weekend, Monmouth County residents turned in 1,581 guns at locations in Asbury Park and Keansburg, according to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. About $209,000 was spent in state and county funds, and participants were paid up to $250 per weapon.

Also, the county is still giving away free gun locks for licensed firearms, Stanfield said. She made the locks available in the days after the Newtown, Conn., school shootings, and in the weeks following about 1,500 locks were handed out.

 

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