TRENTON – Continuing a statewide effort to make communities safer by taking deadly firearms out of circulation, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced today that a $100,000, state-sponsored gun buyback program for residents of Mercer County will take place at two churches in Trenton on January 25 and 26.
According to Chiesa, the logistics of the Mercer County gun buyback will mirror those of a highly successful, state-sponsored buyback held last month in Camden County. Between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on January 25 and 26, Mercer County residents can turn in up to three firearms of any type “no questions asked” and receive cash payment of up to $250 per weapon.
Police officers will be stationed at the two churches – the Pentecostal Assembly of God Church and the Greater Mount Zion AME Church -- to collect and secure the guns. The Attorney General’s Office is paying for the buyback with forfeiture funds obtained by its Division of Criminal Justice. There is no cost to New Jersey taxpayers.
“As we all know – and as we were tragically reminded in December with the Sandy Hook school shootings -- there are just too many guns out there and too many people dying as a result of gun violence. If we can save one life through this initiative, then it’s money well spent,” Attorney General Chiesa said during a press conference held this morning at Hughes Justice Complex.
“I’ve read and heard some of the comments of the doubters,” Chiesa added. “But let me be clear: we don’t view gun buybacks as some magical, stand-alone answer to the gun violence problem. However, buybacks are a worthy aspect of a larger anti-violence strategy. And, as our recent experience in Camden County demonstrated, they work.”
During the two-day Camden County gun buyback held December 14 and 15 in Camden city, more than 1,100 guns – including a number of assault rifles – were taken in at two church locations.
Chiesa noted that, beginning only minutes into the New Year with the shooting death of a 54-year-old Trenton man – the state’s first homicide of 2013 – Trenton has witnessed a spate of shootings emblematic of the gun violence impacting urban centers throughout New Jersey.
“We’d love to replicate or improve on the success of our Camden buyback with this event,” the Attorney General said, “but the fact is that any number of guns we take off the streets will be a win for public safety, and especially for the residents of Trenton and Mercer County.”
According to Chiesa, this second state-sponsored “Guns for Cash” buyback event is a cooperative effort involving the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, Trenton Police, New Jersey State Police, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office and the faith-based community in Trenton.
Joining the Attorney General for today’s press conference were Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini, Jr., Trenton Police Director Ralph Rivera, Jr., representatives of Mercer County Sheriff John A. Kemler, Pentecostal Assembly of God Pastor Jose Rodriguez and Greater Mount Zion AME Pastor J. Stanley Justice.
Also in attendance were New Jersey State Senator Shirley Turner, New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Director Stephen Taylor, Assistant U.S. Attorney R. Joseph Gribko, representing the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Trenton and Rev. Darrell Armstrong of the Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton.
In addition to publicizing the gun buyback campaign through today’s press conference, the two-day “Guns for Cash” effort will be promoted through local radio, newspaper, bus transit and other advertising. Merchants in Trenton will be urged to place posters announcing the program in their storefronts, and members of the clergy will be given palm cards to distribute to their parishioners.
Attorney General Chiesa thanked the Pentecostal Assembly of God, located at 65 North Clinton Avenue, and Greater Mount Zion AME Church, located at 42 Pennington Avenue, for their willingness to host the Trenton/Mercer County gun buyback.
He urged residents to take advantage of the money, and amnesty, being offered them to relinquish their guns.
He also reminded residents that New Jersey has some of the nation’s toughest gun laws, and that the crime of Unlawful Possession of a Gun is a second-degree offense punishable by between five and 10 years in prison.
“The people you see gathered here today are united in their resolve to save lives and create safer neighborhoods by getting guns off the streets,” said Chiesa. “Our commitment – one way or another -- is to take a lot of dangerous weapons out of circulation before they’re used to harm or kill someone. I urge the residents of Mercer County to join us by supporting this effort.”
Residents with questions about the gun buyback program can call the Attorney General’s Citizen Services unit at (609) 984-5828 or visit www.nj.gov/guns.