By Dari Kotzker
Attorney General Jeff Chiesa announced today that 2,604 firearms — 700 of them illegal — were collected during the Mercer County Gun Buyback Program last Friday and Saturday in Trenton. The attorney general says approximately 90 percent of them were operational and $324,000 in state criminal forfeiture funds were spent for the buybacks.
“The citizens, especially the citizens that live in these communities that are most effected by the violence, are fully behind this program and that’s because they recognize having fewer hand guns, assault weapons, that can hurt people, the safer their communities are going to be,” Chiesa said.
Each firearm will only be checked to see if was lost or stolen, a process that can take a few months.
Although a larger percentage of these guns are legal, officials say they can still potentially cause harm or be susceptible to a violent act. “You have to remember 700 weapons that were altered, every one of these rifles that you see here have the potential of being altered. All you have to do is stock or barrel, so in essence 2,600 weapons here that could possibly be illegal,” said Trenton Police Director Ralph Rivera, Jr.
Even with the success of these buyback programs, there’s no debating the upward trend of gun ownership. The state police don’t track gun sales, but according to the FBI, between 2007 and 2012, there’s been a 236 percent increase in the number of firearm background checks in New Jersey.
“I don’t think there’s any correlation between the number of guns here and impacts, except to say we’re safer than we were on Thursday,” said Chiesa.
The attorney general says there are more forfeiture funds, so he’s planning additional gun buyback programs throughout the state. Although not formally announced, we’re told the next one will be in northern New Jersey in mid-February.