Atlantic County’s Guns for Cash event over the weekend was the state’s second most successful of five held since December with 2,061 guns collected — about half of them handguns.
The buyback, held at churches in Atlantic City and Pleasantville, surpassed those in Camden, Essex and Monmouth counties, none of which reached the 2,000 mark. Mercer County’s buyback in January yielded 2,604 weapons. More than 1,800 guns came through the Pleasantville location at Faith Baptist Church.
“I think it shows that when the community comes together, there’s nothing we can’t do,” said Perry Mays, president of the Coalition for a Safe Community.
Gun buybacks will not solve gun violence on the streets, but they can play a role, state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said Monday at a news conference in Atlantic City announcing the numbers.
During the second day of the gun buyback — Saturday — a 19-year-old man was shot in the head in an afternoon shooting at Atlantic City’s Stanley Holmes Village — about a quarter-mile from the First Baptist Church, where guns were being turned in. He remains in critical condition at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center’s City Campus.
“Rather than a frustration, it’s an illustration of how important it is to get these guns off the street,” acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain said. “You need to employ all of these tools. You need to employ all of these strategies.”
Of the guns collected, 119 were illegal, including 14 assault weapons. Others were illegal due to modifications, such as sawed-off shotguns. All but 51 — or less than 3 percent — were inoperable.
“Those guns can never be stolen in a burglary and then used in a street crime,” Chiesa said as he stood at a podium near tables piled with the weapons. “They’ll never be used to terrorize an innocent person, turn an argument into a tragedy, kill a curious child or take the life of one of our brave police officers.”
While he didn’t have numbers, Chiesa said stolen guns often are used to commit crimes or as so-called “community guns.” These guns are left in spots in the neighborhood where those who want to use them can pick them up.
“They don’t want to be caught with a gun on their person because that’s a charge,” Chiesa explained.
The serial numbers will be used to trace whether the guns have been stolen, but they will not be entered into a system to check for use in crimes to honor the anonymous nature of the buyback, Chiesa said.
The joining of the community, religious leaders and various law enforcement agencies proved a success, Atlantic City Public Safety Director Willie Glass said.
“This combination of resources is going to continue,” he added.
Residents were paid $25 to $250 per gun, depending on the type, with BB guns being at the lowest end and assault rifles and other illegal guns fetching the most.
More than $280,000 in state forfeiture funds were spent in Atlantic County, with an average of $146 per weapon, above the averages of the others counties, which was about $132 to $136, Chiesa said. Taxpayer money was not used.
Atlantic County’s last gun buyback was in November 2010, when 511 guns were collected.
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