Two local churches will be offering more than worship later this month — they’ll be providing a place to turn in guns.
Atlantic County will hold a Guns for Cash event from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. March 22 and 23 at the Second Baptist Church in Atlantic City and Faith Baptist Church in Pleasantville.
“We recognize that these buybacks aren’t a singular, one-stop solution to the gun-violence problem,” state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said in a news release officially announcing the event. “However, they are important because, as we all recognize, there are just too many firearms circulating out there and too many innocent people dying or being critically wounded as a result.”
The buyback is one in a string being financed by forfeiture funds from the Attorney General’s Office. The fourth buyback since December is being held today and Saturday in Monmouth County. More than 5,300 weapons were turned in through the previous three.
Chiesa said it was “startling ... to look at the amount of weaponry we’d taken in.”
That includes handguns, sawed-off shotguns and rifles.
“It is troubling to consider how much lethal firepower is circulating out there in our communities at any given time, just waiting to fall into the wrong hands, or to be used for the wrong purposes,” he said.
Acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain had been planning a gun buyback for the county when he got a call saying state money was available, he said at an Atlantic City/Pleasantville Municipal Planning Board meeting earlier this year. The group is working on ways to stem violence in the area.
“Law enforcement agencies on the state, county and municipal levels have partnered with community leaders to remove these weapons from our homes and the homes of our friends and neighbors, where they are more likely to be instruments of tragedy than to serve any legitimate purpose,” McClain said in the release. “This program is an excellent example of how law enforcement and local leaders can work together to make our community a safer place to live and a safer place to visit.”
Residents can bring as many as three guns to one of the locations and turn them in without questions. The program pays as much as $250 per gun.
Tom Gilbert, commander of Atlantic City’s Tourism District, said Thursday that the buyback is one step in getting guns off the street and being proactive against violence.
“We’re not just about enforcement,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of preventative stuff. This is part of that. We’re all getting very firmly behind the gun buyback program.”
The state’s gun buybacks have seen success since they began in December, when Camden collected more than 1,000 guns. Over the next two buybacks, another 4,300 were brought in. There is another event today and Saturday in Monmouth County.
This is the first gun buyback in Atlantic County since November 2010. The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office had about $1,800 left in forfeiture funds after that to be put toward another gun buyback. The state Attorney General’s Office has committed $100,000.
Contact Lynda Cohen:
Follow Lynda Cohen on Twitter @LyndaCohen