600 Guns Collected in Morris Buyback Program
Almost $50K paid out for weapons, including assault weapons, handguns, rifles.
The Morris County Gun Buyback Amnesty Program held last weekend resulted in the surrender of 600 weapons and paid out a total of more than $49,000, according to Acting Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp.
At a news conference Monday at the county's Public Safety Training Academy in Parsippany, Knapp and other law enforcement officials hailed the buyback, which was held Saturday at two county locations: St. Paul Inside the Walls in Madison and St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Morristown.
At the event, county residents were encouraged to surrender their unwanted weapons confidentially in exchange for cash payouts ranging from $250 for an illegal assault weapon to $25 for an inoperable weapon to zero for a BB gun.
Those who chose to relinquish their weapons did so without having to reveal their identity, address or town of residence, the acting prosecutor explained.
Once turned in, law enforcement officers inspected each weapon, Knapp said.
"All of the weapons are checked to see if they are loaded," he said. "Once they're determined to be in safe condition, they're brought into the facility and catalogued. The Morris County Park Police was extremely helpful in this, and the Sheriff's Office was critical in providing support for this effort."
A long table standing in front of the officials featured a dizzying array of guns collected: modern and not-so-modern assault weapons, rifles, revolvers and handguns in various states of repair, even rubber garbage cans filled with shotguns.
"What you see is about half of what was turned in," said Knapp. "We obtained approximately 15 illegal assault weapons. Six hundred guns were turned in, just under $50,000 was paid out."
The program was funded by the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, the Morris County Prosecutor's Office, the Morris County Park Police and Morris County CrimeStoppers.
"The financial support of the CrimeStoppers was key to this," said the acting prosecutor. "They supported almost half of the dollar amount for this effort. ... CrimeStoppers was essential to the successful result you see here today."
CrimeStoppers Chair John Sette, who also chairs the Morris County Republican Party, said this is the third time his group has been involved in a gun buyback of this nature, with the last event being held in 2001. About 370 guns were collected in that effort.
While the event captures primarily legally owned guns, Sette said buybacks of legal weapons does have a positive effect on crime prevention in the county.
"The people who brought in these guns don't have to worry about their house being robbed by the bad guys, because these guns won't be used for any illegal purpose," he said. "The CrimeStoppers program is proud to participate and look forward to doing it again."
"All the money that was used for this was not taxpayer money," said William Schievella, chief of detectives in the county prosecutor's office. "It was either generous contribution of the CrimeStoppers or forfeiture funds from forfeited illegal assets seized in investigations."
Knapp said he was surprised that 600 guns were surrendered.
"I think we were — I didn't expect to see so many," he said.
"More than half of the guns turned in were handguns," he said. "That was a tremendous thing. These [guns] will often be misused by children or burglarized from a home; they're very dangerous. I was very happy to see that the bulk of these were handguns."
According to Knapp speculated that because of Saturday's snow, the turnout may have been lower that it might have been. He said he expects even more guns to be surrendered when the county holds future buybacks.
"People were coming all day long," despite the weather, he said.
In all, 15 illegal assault weapons were surrendered, as were 91 semi-automatic guns, 192 revolvers, 251 rifles or shotguns, 18 inoperable weapons and 33 BB guns.
Knapp pointed to a rubber barrel containing rifles and shotguns.
"I believe we had seven barrels at one time," he said. "We were running out of barrels, there were so many being turned in."
He added, however, that cash was not a problem, noting that officials were prepared for whatever number of residents appeared to surrender their weapons.
The next stop is investigation, to determine whether the guns were used in any crimes, according to Schievella. He said that those shown to be involved in a crime will go into evidence; the others will be melted down. He said he did not know where the metal will go specifically, only that they likely will be used for the construction of household items. He added that according to guidelines from the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, historic and vintage guns turned in will not be preserved.
Knapp said his department is considering making the event an annual one. He added that people who missed the buyback should check with their local police departments to see if their guns can be turned in there.
Madison Police Chief Darren Dachisen indicated that his department will accept surrenders of unwanted guns by residents, however, he added that outside of an official buyback event, there will be no financial compensation for weapons.