Gun laws, of course, are a source of endless controversy. But at least one method of limiting the number of guns out there shouldn't be controversial at all - gun buyback programs.
State Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said this week that his office plans to increase the number of gun buyback programs this year, and that's welcome news.
Few gun buybacks were held in 2012 in New Jersey. Locally, the last buyback was in Atlantic City and Pleasantville in 2010. That effort resulted in 511 guns - and five boxes of armor-piercing ammunition - being turned in to police.
In December, a Camden gun buyback, which ironically began the day of the Newtown, Conn., shootings, produced 1,137 firearms, possibly the largest buyback in state history, according to The Star Ledger. The haul included five fully automatic assault weapons, more than a dozen 9 mm. handguns and a shotgun designed for elephant hunting.
Generally the gun buybacks rely on funds seized from drug dealers and other criminals. (AtlantiCare provided $25,000 for the 2010 buyback in Pleasantville and Atlantic City.) People who turn in guns are typically paid somewhere around $200 for each weapon they hand over.
In a Dec. 21 column on The Press Commentary page, Matt Miller, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, went so far as to suggest that the federal government borrow $100 billion for a one-time gun buyback/economic stimulus program designed to recover 200 million weapons at $500 each. Pay people in prepaid credit cards that expire in three months to ensure the money is spent fast. It's an intriguing idea.
Gun buybacks have their critics. Some note that the weapons recovered are often old, inoperable firearms from people's attics.
But you sure can't describe the five fully automatic - and illegal - assault weapons recovered in Camden that way.
Others note that criminals don't turn in their guns. True enough. But taking any voluntarily offered gun out of circulation is a plus, if you ask us. The weapons turned in are melted down and the metal recycled.
We don't see any downside. If forfeited funds are used, there is no cost to taxpayers. Guns get voluntarily taken off the streets - no one "seized" them. They come out of homes, from where they can be stolen.
More gun buyback programs are not going to end America's gun-violence problem. But they are a start.
And, it seems to us, they are something that even the most fervent Second Amendment proponent could embrace.